Excellence in business communication [Sixth Canadian edition] 9780134310824, 0134310829

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Excellence in business communication [Sixth Canadian edition]
 9780134310824, 0134310829

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THILL BOVÉE KELLER MORAN

Excellence in Business Communication

6

SIXTH CANADIAN EDTIION

www.pearson.com ISBN 978-0-13-431082-4

9

780134 310824

90000

THILL BOVÉE KELLER MORAN

Excellence in Business Communication

6

SIXTH CANADIAN EDTIION

Excellence in Business Communication sixth canadian edition

John V. Thill Communication Specialists of America

Courtland L. Bovée Professor of Business Communication C. Allen Paul Distinguished Chair Grossmont College

Wendy I. Keller University Lecturer, Trainer and Career Coach

K.M. Moran Professor of Communications/ESL Conestoga College

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Production Services: Cenveo® Publisher Services Permissions Project Management: Integra Publishing Services, Inc. Photo Permissions Research: Integra Publishing Services, Inc. Text Permissions Research: Integra Publishing Services, Inc. Interior Designer: Anthony Leung Cover Designer: Anthony Leung Cover Image: Peter Bernik/Shutterstock

Acquisitions Editor: Keriann Mcgoogan Marketing Manager: Euan White Senior Content Manager: John Polanszky Project Manager: Christina Veeren Content Developer: Darryl Kamo Media Content Developer: Darryl Kamo Media Developer: Tiffany Palmer

Pearson Canada Inc., 26 Prince Andrew Place, North York, Ontario M3C 2H4. Copyright © 2019, 2015, 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. This publication is protected by copyright, and permission should be obtained from the publisher prior to any prohibited reproduction, storage in a retrieval system, or transmission in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise. For information regarding permissions, request forms, and the appropriate contacts, please contact Pearson Canada’s Rights and Permissions Department by visiting www. pearsoncanada.ca/contact-information/permissions-requests. Authorized adaptation from Excellence in Business Communication 12e © 2017, Pearson Education, Inc. Attributions of third-party content appear on the appropriate page within the text. PEARSON is an exclusive trademark owned by Pearson Education, Inc. or its affiliates in the U.S. and/or other countries. Microsoft and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published as part of the services for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided “as is” without warranty of any kind. Microsoft and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all warranties and conditions of merchantability, whether express, implied or statutory, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. in no event shall Microsoft and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from the services. The documents and related graphics contained herein could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Microsoft and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time. Partial screenshots may be viewed in full within the software version specified. Microsoft® Windows® and Microsoft Office® are registered trademarks of the Microsoft Corporation in the U.S.A. and other countries. This book is not sponsored or endorsed by or affiliated with the Microsoft Corporation. Unless otherwise indicated herein, any third party trademarks that may appear in this work are the property of their respective owners and any references to third party trademarks, logos, or other trade dress are for demonstrative or descriptive purposes only. Such references are not intended to imply any sponsorship, endorsement, authorization, or promotion of Pearson Canada products by the owners of such marks, or any relationship between the owner and Pearson Canada or its affiliates, authors, licensees, or distributors. If you purchased this book outside the United States or Canada, you should be aware that it has been imported without the approval of the publisher or the author. 978-0-13-431082-4 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Thill, John V., author    Excellence in business communication / John V. Thill, Communication Specialists of America, Courtland L. Bovée, Professor of Business Communication, C. Allen Paul Distinguished Chair, Grossmont College, Wendy I. Keller. University Lecturer, Trainer and Career Coach. K.M. Moran, Professor of Communications/ESL, Conestoga College. — Sixth Canadian edition. Includes bibliographical references and indexes. ISBN 978-0-13-431082-4 (softcover)    1. Business communication—Case studies. I. Bovée, Courtland L., author II. Keller, Wendy I., 1959-, author III. Moran, Kathleen M., 1955-, author IV. Title. HF5718.2.C3T45 2017

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Brief Contents

Part I  Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication  1 1 Achieving Success through Effective Business Communication  1 2 Communicating in Teams and Mastering Listening and Nonverbal Communication  34 3 Communicating Interculturally  61 Part II  Applying the Three-Step Writing Process  82 4 Planning Business Messages  82 5 Writing Business Messages  113 6 Completing Business Messages  144 Part III  Crafting Brief Messages  175 7 Crafting Messages for Electronic Media  175 8 Writing Routine and Positive Messages  210 9 Writing Negative Messages  245 10 Writing Persuasive Messages  285 Part IV  Preparing Reports and Oral Presentations  320 11 Planning Reports and Proposals  320 12 Writing Reports and Proposals  367 13 Completing Reports and Proposals  415 14 Designing and Delivering Oral and Online Presentations  456 Part V  Writing Employment Messages and Interviewing for Jobs  489 15 Building Careers and Writing Résumés  489 16 Applying and Interviewing for Employment  528 Appendix A Appendix B

Format and Layout of Business Documents  560 Documentation of Report Sources  578

iii

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Contents

Preface  Xi

Part I Understanding the Foundations of Business Communication 1 CHAPTER 1 Achieving Success through Effective Business Communication  1 On The Job: Communicating at Wave 1

Achieving Career Success through Effective Communication 2 The Communication Process  3 What Employers Expect From You  4 Characteristics of Effective Communication  7 Communication in Organizational Settings  8 Understanding the Unique Challenges of Business Communication 11 I. The Globalization of Business and the Increase in Workforce Diversity  11 II. The Evolution of Organizational Structures  12 III. The Growing Reliance on Teamwork  12 IV. The Increasing Value of Business Information  13 V. The Pervasiveness of Technology  13 VI. The Need for Increased Cybersecurity and Protection of Privacy  13 Barriers to Effective Communication  14 Communicating More Effectively on the Job  16 Strategy 1: Improve Your Business Communication Skills 16 Strategy 2: Minimize Distractions  16 Strategy 3: Adopt an Audience-Centred Approach 17 Strategy 4: Make Your Feedback Constructive  19 Strategy 5: Be Sensitive to Business Etiquette  20 Applying What You’ve Learned to the Communication Process 20 Using Technology to Improve Business Communication 21 Understanding the Social Communication Model 21 Keeping Technology in Perspective  23 Guarding against Information Overload  23 Using Technological Tools Productively  23 Reconnecting with People Frequently  24 Making Ethical Communication Choices  24 Distinguishing an Ethical Dilemma from an Ethical Lapse  25

Ensuring Ethical Communication  25 PROMOTING WORKPLACE ETHICS Ethical Boundaries: Where Would You Draw the Line?  27

Ensuring Legal Communication  28 Applying What You’ve Learned  28 Summary of Learning Objectives  29 On The Job Performing Communication Tasks at Wave 30 Test Your Knowledge  30 Apply Your Knowledge  31 Running Cases  31 Practise Your Knowledge  32 Exercises 32

CHAPTER 2 Communicating in Teams and Mastering Listening and Nonverbal Communication  34 On The Job: Communicating at Royal Bank of Canada  34

Improving Your Performance in Teams  35 Types of Teams  35 Advantages and Disadvantages of Teams  36 Characteristics of High Performing Teams  37 Group Dynamics  37 Collaborating on Communication Efforts  41 Guidelines for Collaborative Writing  41 Technologies for Collaborative Writing  42 Social Networks and Virtual Communities  43 Making Your Meetings More Productive  44 Preparing for Meetings  44 Leading and Participating in Meetings  45 ✔Checklist Improving Face-to-Face and Virtual Meeting Productivity  48

Using Meeting Technologies  48 Improving Your Listening Skills  50 Understanding the Listening Process  50 Recognizing and Understanding Active Listening 51 Overcoming Barriers to Effective Listening  52 ✔Checklist Overcoming Barriers to Effective Listening  53

Improving Your Nonverbal Communication Skills 53 Recognizing Nonverbal Communication  53 Sharpening Your Career Skills Developing Your Business Etiquette  55

Using Nonverbal Communication Effectively  55

iv

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CONTENTS v SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES  56 ON THE JOB PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT ROYAL BANK OF CANADA  57 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE  57 APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE  58 RUNNING CASES  58 PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE  59 EXERCISES 59

CHAPTER 3 Communicating Interculturally  61 ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT IBM 61

Understanding the Opportunities and Challenges of Intercultural Communication  62 The Opportunities in a Global Marketplace  62 Advantages of a Multicultural Workforce  62 The Challenges of Intercultural Communication  63 Developing Cultural Competency  64 Understanding the Concept of Culture  64 Overcoming Ethnocentrism and Stereotyping  65 Recognizing Cultural Variations  66 COMMUNICATING ACROSS CULTURES Test Your Intercultural Knowledge  69

Improving Intercultural Communication Skills  69 Studying Other Cultures  70 Studying Other Languages  72 Respecting Preferences for Communication Style  72 Writing Clearly  72 Speaking and Listening Carefully  76 Using Interpreters, Translators, and Translation Software 76 Helping Others Adapt to Your Culture  77 ✔CHECKLIST IMPROVING INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS  77 SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES  77 ON THE JOB PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT IBM 78 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE  79 APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE  79 RUNNING CASES  79 PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE  80 EXERCISES 80

PART II APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS  82 CHAPTER 4 Planning Business Messages  82 ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT MARS DISCOVERY DISTRICT  82

Understanding the Three-Step Writing Process  83 Optimizing Your Writing Time  84 Planning Effectively  84 Step 1 in the Writing Process: Planning  85 Analyzing the Situation  85 Defining Your Purpose  85 Developing an Audience Profile  86

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Gathering Information  87 Uncovering Audience Needs  88 Providing Required Information  88 Selecting the Right Medium  90 Oral Media  91 Written Media  92 Visual Media  92 Electronic Media  93 Factors to Consider When Choosing Media 94 PROMOTING WORKPLACE ETHICS How Much Information Is Enough?  96

Organizing Your Information  97 Recognizing the Importance of Good Organization 97 Defining Your Main Idea  99 Limiting Your Scope  100 Choosing between Direct and Indirect Approaches 101 Outlining Your Content  103 ✔CHECKLIST PLANNING BUSINESS MESSAGES  107 SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES  107 ON THE JOB PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT MARS 108 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE  108 APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE  109 RUNNING CASES  109 PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE  110 EXERCISES 110

CHAPTER 5 Writing Business Messages  113 ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT CREATIVE COMMONS 113

Adapting to Your Audience: Being Sensitive to Audience Needs  114 Using the “You” Attitude  115 Maintaining Standards of Etiquette  116 Emphasizing the Positive  116 Using Bias-Free Language  119 Adapting to Your Audience: Building Strong Relationships with Your Audience  120 Establishing Your Credibility  120 Projecting the Company’s Image  122 Adapting to Your Audience: Controlling Your Style and Tone  123 Using a Conversational Tone  123 Using Plain Language  125 Selecting Active or Passive Voice  125 Composing Your Message  127 Choosing Precise Words  127 Using Functional and Content Words Correctly 128 SHARPENING YOUR CAREER SKILLS Beating Writer’s Block: Ten Workable Ideas to Get Words Flowing  128

Understanding Denotation and Connotation  129 Balancing Abstract and Concrete Words  129 Finding Words That Communicate Well  129

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vi CONTENTS

Composing Your Message: Creating Effective Sentences 131 Choosing from the Four Types of Sentences  131 Using Sentence Style to Emphasize Key Thoughts  132 Composing Your Message: Crafting Unified, Coherent Paragraphs 133 Creating the Elements of the Paragraph  133 Choosing the Best Way to Develop Each Paragraph 135 Using Technology to Compose and Shape Your Messages 136 ✔CHECKLIST WRITING BUSINESS MESSAGES  137 SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES  137 ON THE JOB PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT CREATIVE COMMONS  138 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE  138 APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE  139 RUNNING CASES  139 PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE  140 EXERCISES 140

CHAPTER 6 Completing Business Messages  144 ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT FREE THE CHILDREN  144

Revising Your Message: Evaluating the First Draft  145 Evaluating Your Content, Organization, Style, and Tone 148 Evaluating, Editing, and Revising the Work of Others 148 Revising to Improve Readability  149 Varying Your Sentence Length  150 Keeping Your Paragraphs Short  150 Using Lists and Bullets to Clarify and Emphasize  150 Adding Headings and Subheadings  152 Editing for Clarity and Conciseness  153 Editing for Clarity  153 Editing For Conciseness  155 Using Technology to Revise Your Message  157 ✔CHECKLIST REVISING BUSINESS MESSAGES  158

Producing Your Message  160 Designing for Readability  160 Designing Multimedia Documents  163 Using Technology to Produce Your Message  164 Formatting Formal Letters and Memos  165 Proofreading Your Message  166 ✔CHECKLIST PROOFING BUSINESS MESSAGES  167

Distributing Your Message  167 SHARPENING YOUR CAREER SKILLS Proofread Like a Pro to Create Perfect Documents  168 SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES  169 ON THE JOB PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT FREE THE CHILDREN  169 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE  170 APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE  170 RUNNING CASES  170 PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE  171 EXERCISES 172

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PART III CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES  175 CHAPTER 7 Crafting Messages for Electronic Media  175 ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT PETRO-CANADA 175

Electronic Media for Business Communication  176 Compositional Modes for Electronic Media  177 Creating Content for Social Media  179 Social Networking and Community Participation Sites 180 Social Networks  180 User-Generated Content Sites  184 Community Q&A Sites  185 Community Participation Sites  185 Email 185 Planning Email Messages  186 Writing Email Messages  186 Completing Email Messages  188 ✔CHECKLIST CREATING EFFECTIVE EMAIL MESSAGES  189

Instant Messaging and Text Messaging  189 Understanding the Benefits and Risks of IM  189 Adapting the Three-Step Process for Successful IM  190 ✔CHECKLIST USING IM PRODUCTIVELY  191

Blogging and Microblogging  191 Understanding the Business Applications of Blogging  193 BUSINESS COMMUNICATION 2.0 Let Social Media Work for You  195

Adapting the Three-Step Process for Successful Blogging 195 Microblogging 197 ✔CHECKLIST BLOGGING FOR BUSINESS  198

Podcasting 198 Understanding the Business Applications of Podcasting 198 Adapting the Three-Step Process for Successful Podcasting 199 ✔CHECKLIST PLANNING AND PRODUCING BUSINESS PODCASTS  200 SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES  200 ON THE JOB PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT PETRO-CANADA 201 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE  202 APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE  202 RUNNING CASES  203 PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE  203 EXERCISES 204

CASES APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS TO CASES  206

CHAPTER 8 Writing Routine and Positive Messages  210 ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT INDIGO BOOKS AND MUSIC 210

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Strategy for Routine Requests  211 Stating Your Request Up Front  211 Explaining and Justifying Your Request  211 Requesting Specific Action in a Courteous Close  212 ✔Checklist Writing Routine Requests  213 COMMUNICATING ACROSS CULTURES How Direct Is Too Direct?  213

Common Examples of Routine Requests  214 Asking for Information and Action  214 Asking for Recommendations  214 Making Claims and Requesting Adjustments  216 ✔Checklist Making Claims and Requesting Adjustments  217

Strategy for Routine Replies and Positive Messages 217 Starting with the Main Idea  218 Providing Necessary Details and Explanation  219 Ending with a Courteous Close  219 ✔Checklist Writing Routine Replies and Positive Messages  220

Common Examples of Routine Replies and Positive Messages 220 Answering Requests for Information and Action  220 Granting Claims and Requests for Adjustment  221 ✔Checklist Granting Claims and Adjustment Requests  225

Providing Recommendations  225 Sharing Routine Information  226 Announcing Good News  227 Fostering Goodwill  229 ✔Checklist Sending Goodwill Messages  232 Summary of Learning Objectives  233

Using the Indirect Approach for Negative Messages 251 Opening with a Buffer  252 Providing Reasons and Additional Information  252 Continuing with a Clear Statement of the Bad News 254 Closing on a Respectful Note  255 Maintaining High Standards of Ethics and Etiquette 255 ✔Checklist Creating Negative Messages  257

Sending Negative Messages on Routine Business Matters 257 Making Negative Announcements on Routine Business Matters  258 Rejecting Suggestions and Proposals  258 Refusing Routine Requests  258 Handling Bad News about Transactions  260 ✔Checklist Handling Bad News About Transactions  262

Refusing Claims and Requests for Adjustment  262 ✔Checklist Refusing Claims  264

Sending Negative Organizational News  264 Communicating Under Normal Circumstances  264 Communicating in a Crisis  266 Business Communication 2.0 We’re under Attack! Responding to Rumours and Criticism in a Social Media Environment  268

Sending Negative Employment Messages  269 Refusing Requests for Employee References and Recommendation Letters  269 Refusing Social Networking Recommendation Requests 270 Rejecting Job Applications  271 Giving Negative Performance Reviews  271 Terminating Employment  273

On The Job Performing Communication Tasks at Indigo Books and Music  233

✔Checklist Writing Negative Employment Messages  274

Test Your Knowledge  234 Apply Your Knowledge  234 Running Cases  235 Practise Your Knowledge  235 Exercises 236

Summary of Learning Objectives  274

Cases Applying The Three-Step Writing Process To Cases  238

CHAPTER 9 Writing Negative Messages  245

On The Job Performing Communication Tasks at Maple Leaf Foods  275 Test Your Knowledge  276 Apply Your Knowledge  276 Running Cases  276 Practise Your Knowledge  277 Exercises 277

Cases Applying The Three-Step Writing Process To Cases  279

On The Job: Communicating at Maple Leaf Foods  245

Using the Three-Step Writing Process for Negative Messages 246 Step 1: Planning a Negative Message  246 Step 2: Writing a Negative Message  248 Step 3: Completing a Negative Message  249 Using the Direct Approach for Negative Messages 249 Opening with a Clear Statement of the Bad News  249 Providing Reasons and Additional Information  250 Closing on a Positive Note  251

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CHAPTER 10 Writing Persuasive Messages  285 On The Job: Communicating at Futurpreneur Canada  285

Using the Three-Step Writing Process for Persuasive Messages 286 Step 1: Planning a Persuasive Message  286 Step 2: Writing a Persuasive Message  290 Step 3: Completing a Persuasive Message  291 Developing Persuasive Business Messages  292 Strategies for Persuasive Business Messages  292

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viii Contents ✔Checklist Developing Persuasive Messages  297

Common Examples of Persuasive Business Messages  297 Developing Marketing and Sales Messages  300 Assessing Audience Needs  301 Analyzing Your Competition  301 Determining Key Selling Points and Benefits  301 Anticipating Purchase Objections  302 Applying AIDA or a Similar Model  303 Writing Promotional Messages for Social Media  307 Maintaining High Standards of Ethics, Legal Compliance, and Etiquette  308 PROMOTING WORKPLACE ETHICS Selling Ethically Online  309 Summary of Learning Objectives  310 On The Job Performing Communication Tasks at Futurpreneur 310 Test Your Knowledge  311 Apply Your Knowledge  311 Running Cases  312 Practise Your Knowledge  312 Exercises 313

Cases APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS TO CASES  314

Part IV Preparing Reports and Oral Presentations  320 CHAPTER 11 Planning Reports and Proposals  320 On The Job: Communicating at Dell Inc.  320

Applying the Three-Step Writing Process to Reports and Proposals  321 Analyzing the Situation  322 Gathering Information  324 Selecting the Right Medium  324 Organizing Your Information  326 ✔Checklist Adapting The Three-Step Writing Process to Informational and Analytical Reports  328

Supporting Your Messages with Reliable Information 328 Planning Your Research  329 Being an Ethical Researcher  330 Locating Data and Information  330 Using Your Research Results  332 Conducting Secondary Research  335 Finding Information at a Library  335 Finding Information Online  335 Documenting Your Sources  340 Conducting Primary Research  340 Conducting Surveys  341 Conducting Interviews  343 ✔Checklist Conducting Effective Information Interviews  345

Planning Informational Reports  345 Organizing Informational Reports  345

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Sharpening Your Career Skills Creating an Effective Business Plan  347

Organizing Website Content  349 Planning Analytical Reports  351 Focusing on Conclusions  352 Focusing on Recommendations  352 Focusing on Logical Arguments  353 Planning Proposals  357 Summary of Learning Objectives  359 On The Job Performing Communication Tasks at Dell Inc.  360 Test Your Knowledge  362 Apply Your Knowledge  362 Running Cases  363 Practise Your Knowledge  363 Exercises 364

CHAPTER 12 Writing Reports and Proposals  367 On The Job: Communicating at FEDEX 367

Composing Reports and Proposals  368 Adapting to Your Audience  368 Drafting Report Content  369 Creating Report Effectiveness  372 Drafting Proposal Content  377 Establishing a Time Perspective  381 Helping Readers Find Their Way  381 ✔Checklist Composing Business Reports and Proposals  383

Using Technology to Craft Reports and Proposals  383 Writing for Websites and Wikis  384 Drafting Website Content  384 Collaborating on Wikis  385 Illustrating Your Reports with Effective Visuals  386 Understanding Visual Design Principles  386 Understanding the Ethics of Visual Communication 389 Identifying Points to Illustrate  389 Selecting the Right Type of Visual  390 Producing and Integrating Visuals  401 Creating Visuals  401 Integrating Visuals with Text  402 ✔Checklist Creating Effective Visuals  404

Verifying the Quality and Integrity of Your Visuals  404 PROMOTING WORKPLACE ETHICS Ethical Communication and Distorting the Data  405 Summary of Learning Objectives  406 On The Job Performing Communication Tasks at Fedex 406 Test Your Knowledge  408 Apply Your Knowledge  408 Running Cases  408 Practise Your Knowledge  409 Exercises 410

Cases Applying The Three-Step Writing Process To Cases  412

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Contents ix

CHAPTER 13 Completing Reports and Proposals  415 On The Job: Communicating at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation  415

Revising Reports and Proposals  416 Producing Formal Reports  417 Report Writer’s Notebook Analyzing a Formal Report  418

Prefatory Parts  433 Text of the Report  437 Supplementary Parts  438 Producing Formal Proposals  439 Prefatory Parts  440 Text of the Proposal  440 Proofreading Reports and Proposals  444 Distributing Reports And Proposals  445 ✔Checklist Completing Formal Reports and Proposals  446 Summary of Learning Objectives  446 On The Job Performing Communication Tasks at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation  447 Test Your Knowledge  448 Apply Your Knowledge  448 Running Cases  448 Practise Your Knowledge  449 Exercises 449

Cases Applying The Three-Step Writing Process To Cases  450

CHAPTER 14 Designing and Delivering Oral and Online Presentations  456 On The Job: Communicating at Telefilm Canada  456

Building Your Career with Presentations  457 Planning a Presentation  457 Analyzing the Situation  457 Selecting the Right Medium  459 Organizing Your Presentation  460 Developing and Writing a Presentation  465 Adapting to Your Audience  465 Composing Your Presentation  465 Enhancing Your Presentation with Effective Visuals 469 Choosing Structured or Free-Form Slides  470 Designing Effective Slides  471 Completing a Presentation  476 Finalizing Slides  476 Creating Effective Handouts  476 ✔Checklist Enhancing Presentations with Visuals  478

Choosing Your Presentation Method  479 Practising Your Delivery  479 Delivering a Presentation  480 Overcoming Anxiety  480 Handling Questions Responsively  481

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Embracing the Backchannel  482 Giving Presentations Online  483 Summary of Learning Objectives  484 On The Job Performing Communication Tasks at Telefilm Canada  484 Test Your Knowledge  485 Apply Your Knowledge  485 Running Cases  485 Practise Your Knowledge  486 Exercises 487

Part V Writing Employment Messages and Interviewing For Jobs  489 CHAPTER 15 Building Careers and Writing Résumés  489 On The Job: Communicating at Tim Hortons  489

Building a Career with Your Communication Skills  490 Understanding the Dynamic Workplace  490 Adapting to a Changing Job Market  492 COMMUNICATING ACROSS CULTURES Looking for Work around the World  494

Building an Employment Portfolio  495 Finding the Ideal Opportunity in Today’s Job Market 496 Determine the Story of You  497 Learn to Think Like an Employer  497 Research Industries and Companies of Interest  497 Translate Your General Potential into a Specific Solution for Each Employer  498 Take the Initiative to Find Opportunities  499 Build a Network  499 Seek Career Counselling  501 Be Professional and Check for Mistakes 501 Planning a Résumé  502 Analyze Your Purpose and Audience  502 Gather Pertinent Information  503 Select the Best Medium  503 Organize Your Résumé Around Your Strengths  503 Address Areas of Concern  507 Writing a Résumé  507 Keep Your Résumé Honest  508 Adapt Your Résumé to Your Audience 508 Compose Your Résumé  508 Completing a Résumé  514 Revise Your Résumé  514 Produce Your Résumé  514 Proofread Your Résumé  519 Distribute Your Résumé  519

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x CONTENTS ✔CHECKLIST WRITING AN EFFECTIVE RÉSUMÉ  520 SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES  521 ON THE JOB PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT TIM HORTONS  521 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE  523 APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE  523 RUNNING CASES  523 PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE  524 EXERCISES 525

CASES APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS TO CASES  526

CHAPTER 16 Applying and Interviewing for Employment  528 ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT GOOGLE 528

Submitting Your Résumé  529 Writing Application Letters  529 ✔CHECKLIST WRITING APPLICATION LETTERS  534

Following Up After Submitting a Résumé  534 Understanding the Interviewing Process  535 The Typical Sequence of Interviews  535 Common Types of Interviews  536 Interview Media  537 What Employers Look for in an Interview  538 Pre-employment Testing and Background Checks 538 Preparing for a Job Interview  539 I. Learn about the Organization and Your Interviewers 539 II. Think Ahead about Questions  539 III. Bolster Your Confidence  542 IV. Polish Your Interview Style  543 V. Present a Professional Image  544 VI. Be Ready When You Arrive  544 ✔CHECKLIST PLANNING FOR A SUCCESSFUL JOB INTERVIEW  545

Interviewing for Success  545 I. The Warm-Up  546 II. The Question-and-Answer Stage  546 SHARPENING YOUR CAREER SKILLS Don’t Talk Yourself Right Out of a Job  547

III. The Close  548 Interview Notes  548

Letter Declining a Job Offer  552 Letter of Resignation  552 ✔CHECKLIST WRITING FOLLOW-UP MESSAGES  553 SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES  553 ON THE JOB PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT GOOGLE 554 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE  555 APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE  555 RUNNING CASES  555 PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE  556 EXERCISES 557

CASES PREPARING DIFFERENT TYPES OF EMPLOYMENT MESSAGES  558

APPENDIX A FORMAT AND LAYOUT OF BUSINESS DOCUMENTS 560 First Impressions  560 Paper 560 Customization 560 Appearance 560 Letters 561 Standard Letter Parts  561 Additional Letter Parts  567 Letter Formats  569 Envelopes 570 Addressing the Envelope  571 Folding to Fit  574 International Mail  574 Memos 575 Reports 576 Margins 576 Headings 577 Page Numbers  577

APPENDIX B DOCUMENTATION OF REPORT SOURCES  578 Chicago Humanities Style  578 In-Text Citation—Chicago Humanities Style  578 Bibliography—Chicago Humanities Style  579 APA Style  581 In-Text Citation—APA Style  581 List of References—APA Style  581 MLA Style  583 In-Text Citation—MLA Style  583 List of Works Cited—MLA Style  583

✔CHECKLIST MAKING A POSITIVE IMPRESSION IN JOB INTERVIEWS  549

Following Up After the Interview  549 Thank-You Message  549 Message of Inquiry  550 Request for a Time Extension  551 Letter of Acceptance  551

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Endnotes  585 Name Index  598 Subject Index  600

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Preface Excellence in Business Communication has long provided instructors and students with the most current communication strategies and practices used in today’s workplace. This sixth Canadian edition includes up-to-date model documents that reflect the entire spectrum of print and electronic communication media. Students entering today’s workforce are expected to use a wide range of tools, from instant messaging to blogging to podcasting, and Excellence in Business Communication provides the hands-on experience they need to meet employer expectations. The text offers a set of tools that simplifies teaching, promotes active learning, and stimulates critical thinking. These components work together at four levels to provide seamless coverage of vital knowledge and skills: • Previewing. Each chapter prepares students with clear learning objectives and a brief, compelling vignette featuring current professional practice. • Developing. Chapter content develops and explains concepts with a concise, carefully organized presentation of textual and visual material. The three-step process of planning, writing, and completing is reinforced throughout the text in examples ranging from email messages to blogs to formal reports. • Enhancing. Contemporary examples, many accompanied by the three-step diagram adapted to each message, show students the specific elements that contribute to successful messages. • Reinforcing. Numerous realistic exercises and activities let students practise vital skills and put their new-found knowledge to immediate use. Communication cases encourage students to think about contemporary business issues as they put their skills to use in a variety of media, including blogging and podcasting.

Why This Edition? Business communications continue to evolve in response to changes in the global economy, corporate structures, workforce, technology, and management of information. To continue to provide value for readers,

textbooks and support materials need to be updated and reflect best practices in these changing environments. The sixth Canadian edition builds on the comprehensive approach of the previous edition and focuses on practices in the following areas: • Social media questions, activities, and cases using examples from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other media outlets; • Technologies for collaborative writing, including groupware, social networks, and virtual communities; • Developing cultural competency; • Diversity in organizations; • Social media and the impact on networking and job searching; • Cases featuring email, instant messaging, social networking, blogging, websites, voicemail, and podcasting; and • Vignettes on innovative companies to highlight their market strategies for success. Enhancements include the following: • More discussion about the unique challenges of business communication; • Delving further into the characteristics of high-performing teams and the role of leadership; • The role of active listening in effective business communications, including discussions of emotional intelligence and “feeding forward”; • The do’s and don’ts of sharing using technology and the protection of information; • Updates to the effective use of technology and social media across business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) environments; • Best practices for giving presentations, including storytelling and the management of questions; • Discussion of “personal branding” and social media presence as part of a job search or career development strategy; • How to network with confidence—making a memorable, positive impact; and • Updates to reflect changes introduced in the new, eighth edition of the MLA Handbook.

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xii PREFACE

Key Features of the Text Each chapter of Excellence in Business Communication includes a number of tools designed to guide students through the process of developing their communication skills and preparing them for the business world. Learning Objectives are listed on the first page of each chapter. This “roadmap” shows what will be covered and what is especially important. Each Learning Objective is repeated in the margin where the material is first covered. The Learning Objectives are summarized at the end of the chapter. On the Job opens each chapter with a brief story about communications within a real company, such as Royal Bank of Canada, Maple Leaf Foods, and Indigo Books and Music. The chapter itself demonstrates why these communication skills are important to real companies and shows how to apply them. Each chapter ends with the follow-up On the Job: Performing Communication Tasks at the featured company. These tasks expand on the chapter’s concepts and help students practise real-world decision making. The three-step writing process—planning, writing, and completing—is outlined in Chapters 4 to 6. This process is also highlighted throughout the chapters with selected sample documents and with the end-ofchapter cases. Sample documents provide models in media, ranging from printed letters to instant messaging. The annotations that accompany every model document help students understand how to apply the principles discussed in the chapter. One of four types of themed boxes appears in each chapter, giving valuable tips for the workplace: • Sharpening Your Career Skills gives tips on improving writing and speaking techniques. • Business Communication 2.0 provides help with business communications and technological tools. • Communicating Across Cultures offers advice on communicating successfully in the global business world. • Promoting Workplace Ethics examines important ethical issues that face today’s employees. Checklists summarize key points and help students organize their work on communication projects. Tips for Success give important advice from experts in the field on the chapter’s topic. Real people; real experience.

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Key Points, highlighted in the margin, emphasize important details from the text and are good tools for reviewing concepts. Practice is the best way to grasp new business communication techniques and processes. End-of-chapter exercises and cases will help students develop and improve their communication skills. • Test Your Knowledge provides questions that review the chapter topics. • Apply Your Knowledge offers exercises that encourage students to consider the information and apply it to business decisions. • Running Cases present realistic business situations encountered by Noreen and Kwong as they work toward their career goals. Working through these case studies will help students deal with on-the-job tasks. • Practise Your Knowledge provides documents for critique and revision. • Exercises give additional tasks to work through, including teamwork exercises and ethical situations. • Cases, at the end of specific chapters, offer additional opportunities to apply the three-step writing process in work-related situations. Icons highlight cases that use specific media skills—email, blogging, instant messaging, podcasting—as well as “Portfolio Builder” cases, where the projects may be suitable for students’ employment portfolios.

| MyLab | Business Communication.

MyLab Business Communication is an online homework and tutorial assessment solution designed to help students master concepts, study, and prepare for class. MyLab Business Communication provides students with a better way to practise writing skills and grammar content outside of class, helping them become polished communicators. Log on to www.pearson.com/mylab to access the following interactive tools: • Relevant video series and exercises • Study plan • Interactive flashcards • Model documents • Grammar diagnostics PEARSON eTEXT. The Pearson eText gives students access to their textbook anytime, anywhere. In addition to note taking, highlighting, and bookmarking, the Pearson eText offers interactive and sharing features. Instructors can share their comments or highlights, and

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PREFACE xiii

students can add their own, creating a tight community of learners within the class.

Acknowledgments for the Sixth Canadian Edition

Instructor Supplements

The delivery of an effective textbook requires an understanding of the needs and preferences of instructors and students who will be using the material to facilitate learning. Every aspect must be reviewed for relevance, accuracy, and consistency. This effort would not be possible without the help of a dedicated and thoughtful publishing team. We are grateful to Jennifer Sutton for presenting us with the opportunity to contribute to the sixth Canadian edition of Excellence in Business Communication. We are honoured to work with Pearson Canada staff on this comprehensive text: Acquisition Editor Keriann McGoogan; Senior Content Manager John Polanszky; and Developmental Editors Patti Sayle and Darryl Kamo, who were always patient and available (even at late hours) to share their experience and help us get to production. Thanks also to our Project Managers Colleen Wormald, Christina Veeren, and Revathi Viswanathan; our Copy Editor, Susan Broadhurst; and our Proofreader, Audrey Dorsch, who ensured that all production details of the book were met. So many others dedicated their time and energy to the production of this edition. We extend sincere thanks for their important contributions. And, finally, thank you to our families and friends, who have let us put them on hold while we dug in to the world of business communication and hopefully came up with a product that will satisfy our most valued customers, the students and instructors of continued learning.

COMPUTERIZED TEST BANK. Pearson’s computerized test banks allow instructors to filter and select questions to create quizzes, tests, or homework. Instructors can revise questions or add their own and may be able to choose print or online options. These questions are also available in Microsoft Word format.

The following additional instructor supplements are available for download from a password-protected section of Pearson Canada’s online catalogue (http:// catalogue.pearsoned.ca/). Navigate to your book’s catalogue page to view a list of supplements that are available. See your local sales representative for details and access. • The Instructor’s Manual provides chapter outlines, suggests solutions to the exercises, and supplies formatted letters for the cases in the letter-writing chapters. Additional resources include diagnostic tests of English skills and supplementary grammar exercises. • PowerPoint Presentations cover the key concepts in each chapter. LEARNING SOLUTIONS MANAGERS. Pearson’s Learning

Solutions Managers work with faculty and campus course designers to ensure that Pearson technology products, assessment tools, and online course materials are tailored to meet your specific needs. This highly qualified team is dedicated to helping schools take full advantage of a wide range of educational resources by assisting in the integration of a variety of instructional materials and media formats. Your local Pearson Canada sales representative can provide you with more details on this service program.

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Wendy Keller Kathleen Moran

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Excellence in Business Communication

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1

Achieving Success through Effective Business Communication

LEARNING OBJECTIVES  After studying this chapter, you will be able to

1

Explain why effective communication is important to your success in today’s business environment

5

Describe five strategies for communicating more effectively on the job

2

Identify eight communication skills that successful employers expect from their employees

6

Explain five strategies for using communication technology successfully

3

Describe the five characteristics of effective business communication

7

4

Discuss six factors that make business communication unique

Discuss the importance of ethics in business communication, and differentiate between an ethical dilemma and an ethical lapse

MyLab Business Communication  Visit MyLab Business Communication to access a variety of online resources directly related to this chapter’s content.

ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT

WAVE Enhancing Value with Social Media

Tetra Images/Alamy Stock Photo

www.waveapps.com

The ability of Wave to harness the power of digital communication is a key ingredient in the company’s success.

Ranked ninth in Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 list (2016) and awarded the title of Best Free Accounting Software for Businesses by Business News Daily (2017), Wave (formerly Wave Accounting) continues to make great strides in the accounting services sector, attracting more than 2.3 million users around the world to date. The company’s success is based on filling a market niche, listening to user needs, and harnessing social media to add value to customer relationships. Started by James Lochrie and Kirk Simpson in 2010, Wave has identified small-business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs as needing an alternative to spreadsheets and “shoebox accounting” for managing their finances. Their product is a free, easy-to-use cloud-based accounting software with features that include unlimited invoicing and account tracking, automatic data backup, secure collaboration, and bank and credit card linking. Business and personal dashboards using charts and other graphical displays help users view their income and expenses at a glance. The system can be accessed on any computer: Mac, Windows, or Linux. In late 2016/early 2017 the company released its Android and iPhone apps and added a lending feature, further demonstrating their responsiveness to market needs and customer challenges. Wave’s appeal is not only the free software. Their team of 130+ employees includes a vice president of community, content, and communications, as well as a community 1

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2 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

manager and customer advocate, whose focus is to develop company–user relationships through social media. The Wave blog describes product enhancements, educates users on software features, and spotlights the success of Wave customers. Guest bloggers such as small-business owners add value to the site through posts titled “5 Things I Wish I Had Known Early in My Business” and “5 Ways to Grow Your Online Community.” The online conversation is extended through Facebook and Twitter, where users can find help, get the latest company news, and see Wave’s

employees having fun at company events and participating in trade shows. The rapid growth of social media has merged isolated conversations into a global phenomenon that has permanently changed the nature of business communication. Wave is one of the millions of companies around the world using social media to supplement or even replace traditional forms of customer communication. How would you use social media to help a company enhance its online profile? What technologies would you select to keep the conversation going?1

Achieving Career Success through Effective Communication 1

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain why effective communication is important to your success in today’s business environment.

Your career success depends on effective communication.

Ambition and great ideas aren’t enough; you need to be able to communicate with people in order to succeed in business. Strong communication skills give you an advantage in the job market.

Improving your communication skills may be the single most important step you can take in your career. You can have the greatest ideas in the world, but they’re no good to your company or your career if you can’t express them clearly and persuasively. Some jobs, such as sales and customer support, are primarily about communicating. In fields such as engineering or finance, you often need to share complex ideas with executives, customers, and colleagues, and your ability to connect with people outside your field can be as important as your technical expertise. If you have the entrepreneurial urge, you will need to communicate with a wide range of audiences, from investors, bankers, and government regulators to employees, customers, and business partners. Whether exchanging emails, posting entries on a blog, giving a formal presentation, or chatting with co-workers at lunch, you are engaging in communication, the process of transferring information from a sender to a receiver. The essence of communication is sharing—providing data, information, and insights in an exchange that benefits both you and the people with whom you are communicating.2 However, communication is considered effective only when others understand your message correctly and respond to it in the way you want. Effective communication helps you manage your workflow, improves business relationships, enhances your professional image, and provides a variety of other important benefits: • Closer ties with important communities in the marketplace • Opportunities to influence conversations, perceptions, and trends • Increased productivity and faster problem solving • Better financial results and higher return for investors • Earlier warning of potential problems, from rising business costs to critical safety issues • Stronger decision making based on timely, reliable information • Clearer and more persuasive marketing messages • Greater employee engagement with their work, leading to higher employee satisfaction and lower employee turnover

Communication is vital to every company’s success.

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Effective communication is at the centre of virtually every aspect of business because it connects the company with all its stakeholders—the groups that your company affects in some way and who themselves have some influence on your company. For example, as a customer or an employee of a particular business, you are a stakeholder. Other stakeholders include government regulators,

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CHAPTER 1  ACHIEVING SUCCESS THROUGH EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION 3

who create guidelines that businesses must observe, and the media, which report on business and influence public opinion. If you want to improve efficiency, quality, responsiveness, or innovation, you’ll do so with the help of strong communication skills. Conversely, without effective communication, people misunderstand one another and misinterpret information. At every stage of your career, communication is the way you’ll succeed, and as you rise in your organization, you’ll use more communication channels, such as blogs, videos, and Twitter, to reach your stakeholders.

THE COMMUNICATION PROCESS Communication doesn’t occur haphazardly. Nor does it happen all at once. It is more than a single act. Communication is a dynamic, transactional, or two-way, process that can be broken into eight steps, as shown in Figure 1–1. However, be aware that this is a simplified model; real-life communication is usually more complicated. Both sender and receiver might be talking at the same time, or the receiver might be trying to talk on the phone with one person while instant messaging with another, or the receiver may ignore the sender’s request for feedback, and so on. 1. The sender has an idea. You conceive an idea and want to share it. The potential success of your communication effort starts here. Its effectiveness depends on the nature of the idea, the composition of the audience and your relationship to these people, and your motivation for wanting to share the idea. For example, if an idea will benefit your department or company and your motivation is to make a contribution, the communication process is off to a strong start. In comparison, if the idea is poorly conceived (perhaps you haven’t considered the financial impact of a proposal) or your motivation is suspect (perhaps you’re more interested in making an impression on your boss than really contributing), the communication will be more difficult and possibly unsuccessful. 2. The sender encodes the idea in a message. When you put your idea into a message (words, images, or a combination of both) that your receiver will understand, you are encoding it. Much of the focus of this course is on developing the skills needed to successfully encode your ideas into effective messages. Encoding can fail for a number of reasons, including poor word choices that confuse or anger the audience, imagery that evokes unintended emotional responses, and cultural differences that result in the same words and images meaning different things to different people. 3. The sender produces the message in a medium. With the appropriate message to express your idea, you now need some way to send that message to your intended audience. Media for transmitting messages can be

Senders and receivers connect through an eight-step process.

8. Audience provides feedback to the sender

1. Sender has an idea

2. Sender encodes the idea in a message

3. Sender produces the message in a medium

4. Sender transmits message through a channel

5. Audience receives the message

6. Audience decodes the message

7. Audience responds to the message

Figure 1–1  The Communication Process

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4 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

divided into oral, written, and visual, as well as electronic forms of these three. As an experienced user of communication media, you already know that this step requires careful decision making and at least some level of technical skill. Misguided media choices or insufficient technical skill can undermine the best intentions. For instance, a desire to keep everyone informed of every important detail in a project can lead to email overload—and a breakdown in communication as people struggle to keep track of all the messages and the inevitable response threads. In contrast, many companies now find that a blog is a much better way to keep teams informed because this medium can dramatically reduce the number of messages required. 4. The sender transmits the message through a channel. Just as technology continues to multiply the number of media options at your disposal, it also continues to provide new communication channels you can use to transmit your messages. The distinction between medium and channel can get a bit murky, but think of medium as the form a message takes and channel as the system used to deliver the message. The channel can be a face-to-face conversation, the Internet, another company—any system capable of delivering messages. 5. The audience receives the message. If your message does not meet any obstacles, such as an unintended email deletion, it arrives at your intended audience. However, mere arrival at the destination is not a guarantee that the message will be noticed or understood correctly. For example, if you’re giving a speech, your listeners have to be able to hear you, and they have to pay attention. You have no guarantee that your message will actually get through. In fact, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a communicator in today’s crowded business environment is cutting through the clutter and noise in whatever medium you choose. 6. The audience decodes the message. If the message is actually received, the audience must then absorb and understand it, a step known as decoding. If obstacles do not block the process, the receiver interprets your message correctly; that is, the receiver assigns the same meaning to your words as you intended and responds in the way you desire. 7. The audience responds to the message. By crafting messages in ways that show the benefits of responding, senders can increase the chances that recipients will respond in positive ways. However, whether a receiver responds as the sender hopes depends on the receiver (a) remembering the message long enough to act on it, (b) being able to act on it, and (c) being motivated to respond. 8. The audience provides feedback to the sender. After decoding your message, the audience has the option of responding in some way. This feedback enables you to evaluate the effectiveness of your message: feedback often initiates another cycle through the process, which can continue until both parties are satisfied with the result. Successful communicators place considerable value on feedback, not only as a way to measure effectiveness but also as a way to learn.

WHAT EMPLOYERS EXPECT FROM YOU 2

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Identify eight communication skills that successful employers expect from their employees.

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No matter how good you are at accounting, law, science, or whatever professional specialty you pursue, most companies expect you to be competent at a wide range of communication tasks. Employers spend millions of dollars on communication training every year, but they expect you to come prepared with basic skills, so you can take full advantage of the learning opportunities they

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CHAPTER 1  ACHIEVING SUCCESS THROUGH EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION 5

make available to you. Check the Employability Skills 2000+ chart, prepared by the Conference Board of Canada (Figure 1–2), for the skills you need to achieve career success. To stand out from your competition in the job market, improving your communication skills might be the single most important step you take. In fact, employers start judging your ability to communicate before you even show up for your first interview (e.g., résumés, phone messages, profiles on social media, etc.), and the process of evaluation never really stops. Improving your communication skills helps ensure that others will recognize and reward your talents and contributions. Fortunately, the specific skills that employers expect from you are the very skills that will help you advance in your career:

Employers are constantly evaluating your communication skills.

1. Organizing ideas and information logically and completely. You’ll often be required to find, process, and organize substantial amounts of raw data and random information so others can easily grasp its significance. Communications that highlight, clarify, and summarize the most important information are more effective than those that include huge amounts of data without any purpose or focus. 2. Expressing and presenting ideas and information coherently and persuasively. Whenever you’re asked to offer an opinion or recommendation, you’ll be expected to back it up with solid evidence. However, organizing your evidence well is not all you will need to do; you’ll also need to convince your audience with compelling arguments that are accurate and ethical. 3. Listening to others effectively. Effective listening is not as easy as you might think. Amidst all the distractions on the job, you’ll need to use specific skills to detect the real meaning behind the words. 4. Communicating effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. You’ll often be called on to communicate with people who differ from you in gender, ethnic background, age, profession, technical ability, and so on. TIPS FOR SUCCESS

“Make sure your soft skills (communication, teamwork, problem solving) are on par with your technical abilities, as employers look for well-rounded individuals who will integrate well into their companies.”

Paul Hébert, senior advisor, strategic communications, at Acart Communications

5. Using communication technologies effectively and efficiently. You’re already familiar with email, instant messaging (IM), and online research. Increasingly, employers will also expect you to use web conferencing, electronic presentations, and a variety of other technological tools. 6. Following accepted standards of grammar, spelling, and other aspects of high-quality writing and speaking. You and your friends are probably comfortable with informal communication that doesn’t put a high value on precision and correctness. However, to be successful in business, you will need to focus on the quality of your communication efforts. Particularly with audiences who don’t know you well, careless writing and disregard for accepted standards reflect poorly on both you and your company. Rather than giving you the benefit of the doubt, many people will assume that you either don’t know how to communicate or don’t care enough to communicate well. 7. Communicating in a civilized manner that reflects contemporary expectations of business etiquette. Even when the pressure is on, you’ll be expected to communicate with courtesy and respect in a manner that is appropriate to the situation.

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6 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Figure 1–2  Employability Skills 2000+ Chart Download this pamphlet from www.conferenceboard.ca/topics/education/learning-tools/employability-skills.aspx and use it as a reference throughout your schooling and career. Where do you stand now in regard to the three skill areas? Where do you need to improve your skills? How do you plan to do this? Courtesy: The Conference Board of Canada.

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CHAPTER 1  ACHIEVING SUCCESS THROUGH EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION 7

8. Communicating ethically, even when choices aren’t crystal clear. Whether you’re simply reporting on the status of a project or responding to a complicated, large-scale crisis, you’re certain to encounter situations that call for you to make sound ethical choices. (See “Promoting Workplace Ethics: Ethical Boundaries—Where Would You Draw the Line?” later on in the chapter.) You’ll have the opportunity to practise all these skills throughout this course—but don’t stop there. Successful professionals continue to hone communication skills throughout their careers. For example, the Canadian Centre for Ethics and Corporate Policy is a nonprofit organization that provides company leaders who recognize the value of promoting the application of ethical decision making with an opportunity to exchange best practices.3

CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION Having the best ideas that will help your company run productively isn’t enough; you must express those ideas clearly and persuasively. Employers demand oral and written communication skills from all job candidates, from seasonal and entry-level workers to management employees. To make your messages effective, make them practical, factual, concise, clear about expectations, and persuasive:4

Keep these five important characteristics in mind as you review Figures 1–3 and 1–4. Both emails appear to be well constructed at first glance, but Figure 1–3 is far less effective, as explained in the margin comments. It shows the negative impact that poorly conceived messages can have on an audience. In contrast, Figure 1–4 shows how an effective message can help everyone work more efficiently (in this case, by helping them prepare effectively for an important meeting).

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LEARNING OBJECTIVE

SUMMER WILDERNESS CAMP OPPORTUNITIES Camp Nippising is seeking enthusiastic people with a passion for working with kids and a love of the outdoors. Applicants will have Camping experience Excellent oral and written communication skills Standard First Aid with Heartsaver CPR Lifeguard certificate

Yellow Dog Productions/The Image Bank/Getty Images

1. Provide practical information. Give recipients useful information, whether it’s to help them perform a desired action or understand a new company policy. 2. Give facts rather than impressions. Use concrete language, specific detail, and information that is clear, convincing, accurate, and ethical. Even when an opinion is called for, present compelling evidence to support your conclusion. 3. Present information in a concise, efficient manner. Highlight the most important information, rather than forcing your reader to determine the key points. Most business professionals find themselves wading through a flood of data and information. Messages that clarify and summarize are more effective than those that do not. In today’s time-pressured business environment, clear and concise messages are highly valued. 4. Clarify expectations and responsibilities. Write messages to generate a specific response from a specific audience. Clearly state what you expect from audience members or what you can do for them. You will see many examples in this book with action requests. 5. Offer compelling, persuasive arguments and recommendations. Show your readers precisely how they will benefit from responding to your message the way you want them to. Including reader benefits is the key to persuading employers, colleagues, customers, or clients to adopt a plan of action or purchase a product.

3

Describe the five characteristics of effective business communication.

Most companies want employees who can communicate effectively, from entry- to high-level positions. What sorts of jobs have you held that required you to communicate with co-workers and with customers or clients? What were your specific communication tasks, both oral and written?

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8 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

The vague subject line fails to alert people to the upcoming meeting. The greeting is cold and off-putting. A negative, accusatory tone here puts readers on the defensive. This shows that little thought has been given to creating an agenda and that audience commitments and responsibilities have not been considered. The wording here assumes that people who won’t attend don’t want to, which might not be true. The lack of a closing (such as “thank you”) contributes to the harsh, abrupt tone.

Opening paragraph fails to provide necessary background information for anyone who missed the meeting. Referring to the consultant as “This guy” does not provide a proper introduction and minimizes the importance of the meeting.

This request for action fails to clarify who needs to do what by when.

The meeting information includes the day but not the date, which could lead to confusion. The writer fails to provide alternative contact information or invite questions about the meeting, making it harder for team members to clarify their assignments or raise concerns.

Figure 1–3   Ineffective Communication

COMMUNICATION IN ORGANIZATIONAL SETTINGS No matter what your level in the organization, you have an important communication role.

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In every part of the business organization, communication provides the vital link between people and information. When you join a company, you become a key element in its communication chain. Whether you’re a high-level manager or an entry-level employee, you have information that others need to perform their jobs, and others have information that is crucial to you. You exchange information with people inside your organization, called internal communication, and you exchange information and ideas with others outside your organization, called external communication. This information travels over both formal and informal channels. Communicating internally is essential for effective functioning. As an employee, you are in a position to observe first-hand attitudes and behaviours that your supervisors and co-workers cannot see: a customer’s reaction to a product display, a supplier’s brief hesitation before agreeing to a delivery date, or a slowdown in the flow of customers. Managers and co-workers need such minute information in order to do their jobs. If you don’t pass that information along, nobody will—because nobody else knows. Communicating freely helps employees develop a clear sense of the organization’s mission and helps managers identify and react quickly to potential problems. Like internal communication, external communication is essential for conducting business smoothly. Companies constantly exchange messages with customers, vendors, distributors, competitors, investors, journalists, and community representatives. Whether by letter, Web, phone, email, or video, good communication is the first step in creating a favourable impression. Extremely careful planning is required for messages such as statements to the press, letters to investors, advertisements, and price announcements. Therefore, such documents are

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CHAPTER 1  ACHIEVING SUCCESS THROUGH EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION 9

An informative subject line helps people grasp key content immediately.

The opening paragraph fills in missing information so that everyone can grasp the importance of the message. Formally introducing the consultant speaks to the credibility of the guest and shows respect.

The greeting is friendly without being too causal. This paragraph emphasizes the importance of the meeting. Attendees can plan their daily commitments around this.

The request provides enough information to enable readers to respond.

The writer offers everyone a chance to participate, without making anyone feel guilty about not being able to attend in person. (WebEx is an online meeting system.)

The closing paragraph invites questions ahead of time so that they don’t derail the meeting.

Like the greeting, the close has a warm and personal tone, without being too casual. The email signature provides additional information and alternative contact options.

Shari Washington Group Manager, Retail Systems Office: 905-555-1852 Mobile: 647-555-6868

Figure 1–4   Effective Communication

often drafted by marketing, legal, and/or public relations teams—whose sole job is creating and managing the flow of formal messages to outsiders. FORMAL COMMUNICATION NETWORK The formal communication network is typically shown as an organizational chart, such as the one in Figure 1–5. Such charts summarize the lines of authority; each box represents a link in the chain of command, and each line represents a formal channel, or route, for the transmission of official messages. Information may travel down, up, and across an organization’s formal hierarchy.

• Downward flow. Organizational decisions are often made at the top and then flow down to the people who will carry them out. Most of what filters downward is geared toward helping employees do their jobs and carry out company objectives. From top to bottom, each person must understand each message, apply it, and pass it along. • Upward flow. To solve problems and make intelligent decisions, managers must learn what’s going on in the organization. Because they must delegate work to be efficient, executives depend on lower-level employees to furnish them with accurate, timely reports on problems, emerging trends, opportunities for improvement, grievances, and performance. Typically, documents generated for high-level or outside readers or sensitive or complex messages are approved by superiors before being sent out.

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Information flows up, down, and across the formal hierarchy.

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10 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

• Horizontal flow. Communication also flows laterally, from one department to another. This horizontal communication helps employees share information and coordinate tasks. Project teams are one example of horizontal communication: in these teams, employees from different departments work together to solve problems and improve the operation of their company.

Courtesy Iron to Iron

Formal organizational charts illustrate how information is supposed to flow. In actual practice, however, employees across the organizational hierarchy communicate with one another informally. INFORMAL COMMUNICATION NETWORK Every organization also has an informal communication network, often referred to as the grapevine or the rumour mill, that encompasses all communication that occurs outside the formal network. Some of this informal communication takes place naturally as a result of employee interaction both on the job and in social settings, and some of it takes place when the formal network doesn’t provide information that employees want. In fact, the inherent limitations of formal communication networks helped The web development firm IRON to IRON (irontoiron.com) helps clients create spur the growth of social media in the business websites that are easy to navigate and read. Consider the design of this environment. webpage. How does it communicate what the business has to offer? Some executives are wary of the informal communication network, possibly because Grapevines flourish when employees it threatens their power to control the flow of information. However, smart don’t receive information they want managers tap into the grapevine. It provides them with a sense of employees’ or need. concerns and anxieties, and they can use it to spread and receive informal

President

Vice president of finance

Vice president of marketing

Accounting manager

Director of sales

Director of advertising and promotion

Industrial sales manager

Retail sales manager

E-commerce manager

Examples of downward communication Examples of upward communication

Vice president of research and development

Vice president of production

Plant manager

Advertising manager

Line A supervisor

Line B supervisor

Line C supervisor

Examples of horizontal communication

Figure 1–5   Formal Communication Network

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CHAPTER 1  ACHIEVING SUCCESS THROUGH EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION 11

messages.5 The grapevine also helps employers determine if their formal means of communication are effective: grapevines tend to be most active when employees believe the formal network is not providing the information they want or need.6 INFORMAL OUTSIDE COMMUNICATION  Although companies often communicate with outsiders in a formal manner, informal contacts with outsiders are important for learning about customer needs. As a member of an organization, you are an important informal channel for communicating with the outside world. In the course of your daily activities, you unconsciously absorb bits of information that add to the collective knowledge of your company. What’s more, every time you speak for or about your company to your friends, potential sales contacts, customers, and so on, you send a message. Many outsiders may form their impression of your organization on the basis of the subtle, unconscious clues you transmit through your tone of voice, facial expression, and general appearance. Although these interactions are informal, they can still be vital to the company’s success, so they require the same care and skill as formal communication. In fact, these informal exchanges are considered so important that a new class of technology has emerged to enable them. Just as Facebook, Twitter, and similar social networking websites help students and other individuals connect, websites such as LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), XING (www. xing.com), and Ryze (www.ryze.com) help businesspeople connect. These business-oriented solutions typically work by indexing email and IM address books, calendars, and message archives, then looking for connections between names.7

Every employee informally accumulates facts and impressions that contribute to the organization’s collective understanding of the outside world.

Understanding the Unique Challenges of Business Communication If you have some experience in the business world, you already know that business communication is far more demanding than the communication you typically engage in with family, friends, and school associates. Expectations are higher on the job, and the business environment is so complex that your messages can fail for many reasons, such as human oversight or a technological glitch. Business communication is affected by factors such as the globalization of business and the increase in workforce diversity, the evolution of organizational structures, the growing reliance on teamwork, the increasing value of business information, the pervasiveness of technology, and the need for increased cybersecurity and protection of privacy.

4

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Discuss six factors that make business communication unique.

I. THE GLOBALIZATION OF BUSINESS AND THE INCREASE IN WORKFORCE DIVERSITY Today’s businesses increasingly reach across international borders to market their products, partner with other businesses, and employ workers and executives—an effort known as globalization. Many North American companies rely on exports for a significant portion of their sales, and managers and employees in these firms need to communicate with many other cultures. Moreover, thousands of companies from all around the world compete for a share of the massive North American market, so chances are you’ll do business with or even work for a company based in another country at some point in your career. Increased globalization and workforce diversity mean that employees must understand the laws, customs, and business practices of many countries besides being able

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12 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

People with different cultural backgrounds and life experiences may have different communication styles.

to communicate with people who speak different languages. Between 2007 and 2011, 1.6 million people immigrated to Canada. Altogether, Canadians come from more than 200 different ethnic backgrounds.8 It has been said that Canada’s multiculturalism is what “makes us so well liked around the world.”9 As we see later in the text, successful companies realize two important facts: (1) the more diverse their workforce, the more attention they need to pay to communication, and (2) a diverse workforce can yield a significant competitive advantage by bringing more ideas and broader perspectives to bear on business challenges.

II. THE EVOLUTION OF ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURES

Organizations with tall structures may unintentionally restrict the flow of information. Flatter organizational structures usually make it easier to communicate effectively.

Corporate cultures with an open climate benefit from free-flowing information and employee input.

As Figure 1–5 illustrates, every business has a particular structure that defines the relationships between the various people and departments within the organization. These relationships, in turn, affect the nature and quality of communication throughout the organization. Tall structures have many layers of management between the lowest and highest positions, so they can suffer communication breakdowns and delays as messages are passed up and down through multiple layers. To overcome such problems, many businesses are now adopting flat structures that reduce the number of layers. With fewer layers, communication generally flows faster and with fewer disruptions and distortions. On the other hand, with fewer formal lines of control and communication in these organizations, individual employees are expected to assume more responsibility for communication. For instance, you may be expected to communicate across department boundaries with colleagues and team members throughout the company. Specific types of organizational structures present unique communication challenges. In a matrix structure, for example, employees report to two managers at the same time, such as a project manager and a department manager. The need to coordinate workloads, schedules, and other matters increases the communication burden on everyone involved. In a network structure, sometimes known as a virtual organization, a company supplements the talents of its employees with services from one or more external partners, such as a design lab, a manufacturing firm, or a sales and distribution company. Regardless of the particular structure a company uses, your communication efforts will also be influenced by the organization’s corporate culture, the mixture of values, traditions, and habits that give a company its atmosphere and personality. Successful companies encourage employee contributions by ensuring that communication flows freely down, up, and across the organization chart. Open climates encourage candour and honesty, helping employees feel free enough to admit their mistakes, disagree with their boss, and express their opinions.

III. THE GROWING RELIANCE ON TEAMWORK Working in a team makes you even more responsible for communicating effectively.

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Both traditional and innovative company structures can rely heavily on teamwork. Whether the task is to write reports, give oral presentations, produce a video or a product, solve a problem, or investigate an opportunity, companies look for people who can successfully interact in teams and collaborate with others. Why? When teams are successful, they can improve productivity, creativity, employee involvement, and even job security.10 In addition to technical skills, companies seek out personnel who can work well in changing environments and communicate complex ideas to a diverse workforce. In an interview with Fast Company, career consultant and professor at Arkansas State University, Daniel Alexander Usera points out that

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while science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees are in high demand, employees need to be able to function effectively “in a teambased, information-sharing context,” which requires strong communication skills.11 Teams are commonly used in business today, but they’re not always successful—and a key reason that teams fail to meet their objectives is poor communication.

IV. THE INCREASING VALUE OF BUSINESS INFORMATION As competition for jobs, customers, and resources continues to grow, the importance of information continues to escalate as well. Companies in virtually every industry rely heavily on knowledge workers, employees at all levels of an organization who specialize in acquiring, processing, and communicating information. Three examples help to illustrate the value of information in today’s economy:

Information has become one of the most important resources in business today.

• Competitive insights. Successful companies work hard to understand their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. The more you know about your competitors and their plans, the more able you will be to adjust your own business plans. • Customer needs. Most companies invest significant time and money in an effort to understand their customers’ needs. This information is collected from a variety of sources and needs to be analyzed and summarized, so your company can develop goods and services that better satisfy customer needs. • Regulations and guidelines. Today’s businesses must understand and follow a wide range of government regulations and guidelines covering such areas as employment, the environment, taxes, and accounting. Your job may include the responsibility of researching and understanding these issues and then communicating them throughout the organization.

V. THE PERVASIVENESS OF TECHNOLOGY

VI. THE NEED FOR INCREASED CYBERSECURITY AND PROTECTION OF PRIVACY In 2016 Canadians owned more computer devices per capita than did people in any other country in the world. They also spent more time using the

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Technology can help or hinder communication, depending on how it’s designed and used.

Ethan Hill Photography

Technology influences virtually every aspect of business communication today. However, even those technological developments intended to enhance communication can actually impede it if not used intelligently. Moreover, keeping current with technology requires time, energy, and constant improvement of skills. If your level of technical expertise doesn’t match that of your colleagues and co-workers, the imbalance can put you at a disadvantage and complicate the communication process. For a concise overview of the technologies you’re most likely to encounter, see “Using Technology to Improve Business Communication” later in this chapter.

Less costly than travel, videoconferencing provides many of the same benefits as an in-person meeting. Advanced systems include telepresence and robot surrogates, which use computers to “place” participants in the room virtually, letting them see and hear everyone while being seen and heard themselves. Do you think that such realistic interaction makes meetings more productive? What are the benefits and shortcomings of virtual meetings?

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14 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Internet than did people in any other country (approximately 40 hours per person, per month) for both business and personal purposes. While providing excellent time efficiencies, socialization opportunities, and communication resources, the ever-evolving cyber environment also presents an increased need for security and protection of privacy. Research shows that “70% of Canadian businesses have been victim to cyber attacks” at an average cost of $15,000 per incident.12 Furthermore, less than 33 percent of small to medium-sized Canadian businesses are very familiar with concepts such as “ransomware, social engineering and two-factor authentication,” making them very vulnerable to the increasingly sophisticated tactics used by “hactivists.”13 Cybersecurity is a global issue. Consider, for example, the 2017 WannaCry and Peyta ransomware outbreaks, which affected public and private sectors worldwide.14 Increased awareness and education is needed at all levels of an organization. In response, the global market projections for cybersecurity products and services are expected to exceed $170 billion by 2020. Job seekers in this industry will also find good opportunities, as the search for “cyber pros” is expected to reach 6 million in the same time frame.15

BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION Throughout your career, you’ll find that perfectly prepared messages can fail for a variety of reasons. When interference in the communication process distorts or obscures the sender’s meaning, it is called a communication barrier. Your attempts to transmit and receive messages can be disrupted, distorted, or even blocked by communication barriers such as these: • Noise and distractions. External distractions range from uncomfortable meeting rooms to crowded computer screens with instant messages and reminders popping up all over the place. Internal distractions are thoughts and emotions that prevent audiences from focusing on incoming messages. The common habit of multitasking, attempting more than one task at a time, is practically guaranteed to create communication distractions. Moreover, research suggests that “chronic multitasking” can reduce productivity and increase errors.16 • Competing messages. Having your audience’s undivided attention in today’s technological world is a distinct challenge. In many cases, you must compete with other messages that are trying to reach your audience at the same time. Too many messages can result in information overload, which not only makes it difficult to discriminate between useful and useless information but also amplifies workplace stress.17 • Filters. Messages can be blocked or distorted by filters, any human or technological interventions between the sender and the receiver. Filtering can be both intentional (such as automatically filing incomOpen cultures promote the flow of information. You may work in an open-plan ing messages based on sender or content) or office designed to encourage casual interaction and impromptu meetings. Does unintentional (such as an overly aggressive a physically flexible environment stimulate the flow of information? Does it spam filter that deletes legitimate emails). encourage creativity?

Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock

A number of barriers can block or distort messages before they reach the intended audience.

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As you read earlier, the structure and culture of an organization can also inhibit the flow of vital messages. And, in some cases, the people or companies you rely on to deliver your message can distort it or filter it to meet their own needs. • Perceptual differences. Our minds organize incoming sensations into a mental map that represents our individual perception of reality. As a sender, you choose the details that seem important to you. As a receiver, you try to fit new details into your existing pattern; however, if a detail doesn’t quite fit, you are inclined to distort the information rather than rearrange your pattern—a process known as selective perception.18 For example, a manager who strongly believes in a particular business strategy might distort or ignore evidence that suggests the strategy is failing. The more your audience members share your experiences—personal, professional, and cultural—the more likely they will be to extract the same meanings that you encode in your messages (see Figure 1–6). • Language differences. The very language we use to communicate can turn into a barrier if two people define a given word or phrase differently. When a boss asks for something “as soon as possible,” does that mean within 10 seconds, 10 minutes, or 10 days? When you communicate with nonnative speakers of English, you may have to explain such expressions as “he nailed it” and “thinking outside the box.” • Restrictive environments. Companies that restrict the flow of information, either intentionally or unintentionally, limit their competitive potential. With their many levels between top and bottom, tall hierarchies often result in significant loss of message quality in both directions.19 If an organization does not provide an effective means for employees to share their ideas, employees will believe management is not interested in them and will avoid conveying their opinions.20 • Deceptive tactics. Language itself is made up of words that carry values. So merely by expressing your ideas in a certain way, you influence how others perceive your message and you shape expectations and behaviours.21 An organization cannot create illegal or unethical messages and remain credible or become successful. Still, some business communicators try to manipulate their receivers by using deceptive tactics: they may exaggerate benefits, quote inaccurate statistics, or hide negative information behind an optimistic attitude. They may state opinions as facts, leave out crucial information, or portray graphic data unfairly. And they may allow personal preferences to influence their own perception and the perception of others.

Little shared experience

Average amount of shared experience

Large amount of shared experience

Meanings dissimilar

Meanings similar

Meanings very similar

Misunderstanding

Average degree of understanding

High degree of understanding

Figure 1–6   How Shared Experience Affects Understanding

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16 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Communicating More Effectively on the Job 5

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe five strategies for communicating more effectively on the job.

No single solution will overcome all communication barriers. However, a careful combination of strategies can improve your ability to communicate effectively. For example, you can improve your basic communication skills, minimize distractions, adopt an audience-centred approach, make your feedback constructive, and be sensitive to business etiquette.

STRATEGY 1: IMPROVE YOUR BUSINESS COMMUNICATION SKILLS Work on your communication skills before you start your business career.

Your own skills as a communicator will be as much a factor in your business success as anything else. No matter what your skill level, opportunities to improve are numerous and usually easy to find. As mentioned earlier, many employers provide communication training in both general skills and specific scenarios, but don’t wait. Use this course to begin mastering your skills now. Lack of experience may be the only obstacle between you and effective communication. Perhaps you’re worried about a limited vocabulary or uncertain about questions of grammar, punctuation, and style. If you’re intimidated by the idea of writing an important document or appearing before a group, you’re not alone. Everyone gets nervous about communicating from time to time, even people you might think of as “naturals.” People aren’t born writing and speaking well; they master these skills through study and practice. Even simple techniques, such as keeping a reading log and writing practice essays, will improve not only your writing skills but also your scholastic performance.22 This course lets you practise in an environment that provides honest and constructive feedback. You’ll have ample opportunity to plan and produce documents, collaborate in teams, listen effectively, improve nonverbal communication, and communicate across cultures—all skills that will serve your career well.

STRATEGY 2: MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS Overcome distraction by • Using common sense and courtesy • Sending fewer messages • Informing receivers of your message’s priority

Emotionally charged situations require extra care when communicating.

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Everyone in the organization can help overcome distractions. Start by reducing as much noise, visual clutter, and interruption as possible. A small dose of common sense and courtesy goes a long way. Turn off your cellphone before you step into a meeting. Don’t talk across the tops of cubicles when people inside them are trying to work. Be sensitive to your employer’s policies about playing music at work: some people may be able to work with soft music playing, but others can’t. Don’t let email, IM, or telephones interrupt you every minute of the day. Set aside time to attend to messages all at once, so you can think and focus the rest of the day. Make sure the messages you send are necessary. Email in particular has made it too easy to send too many messages or send messages to people who don’t need them. In addition, if you must send a message that isn’t urgent or crucial, let people know so they can prioritize. If a long report requires no action from recipients, tell them up front, so they don’t have to search through it looking for action items. Most email and voicemail systems let you mark messages as urgent; however, use this feature only when it’s truly needed. Too many so-called urgent messages that aren’t particularly urgent will lead to annoyance and anxiety, not action. Try to overcome emotional distractions by recognizing your own feelings and by anticipating emotional reactions from others.23 When a situation might cause tempers to flare, choose your words carefully. As a receiver, avoid placing blame and reacting subjectively.

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STRATEGY 3: ADOPT AN AUDIENCE-CENTRED APPROACH An audience-centred approach means focusing on and caring about the members of your audience, making every effort to get your message across in a way that is meaningful to them. This approach is also known as adopting the “you” attitude. Learn as much as possible about the biases, education, age, status, style, and personal and professional concerns of your receivers. If you’re addressing strangers and are unable to find out more about them, project yourself into their position by using your common sense and imagination. Remember that your audience wants to know, “What’s in it for me?” UNDERSTAND HOW AUDIENCES RECEIVE MESSAGES  Knowing how audiences

receive messages will help you fine-tune an audience-centred approach for each situation. For an audience member to actually receive a message, three events need to occur: the receiver has to sense the presence of a message, select it from all the other messages competing for attention, and perceive it as an actual message (as opposed to random, pointless noise).24 Today’s business audiences are inundated with so many messages and so much noise that they miss or ignore many of the messages intended for them. However, through this course, you will learn a variety of techniques to craft messages that get noticed. In general, follow these five principles to increase your chances of success: • Consider audience expectations. Deliver messages using the media and channels that the audience expects. If colleagues expect meeting notices to be delivered by email, don’t suddenly switch gears and start delivering the notices via blog postings without telling anyone. Of course, sometimes going against expectations can stimulate audience attention, which is why companies will advertise in unusual ways to get your attention. However, for most business communication efforts, following the expectations of your audience is the most efficient way to get your message across. • Ensure ease of use. Even if audiences are actively looking for your messages, they probably won’t see your messages if you make them hard to find. Poorly designed websites with confusing navigation are common culprits in this respect. • Emphasize familiarity. Use words, images, and designs that are familiar to your audience. For example, most visitors to business websites now expect to see information about the company on a page called “About Us.” • Practise empathy. Make sure your messages “speak to the audience” by clearly addressing their wants and needs—not yours. People are much more inclined to notice messages that relate to their individual concerns.25 • Design for compatibility. For the many messages delivered electronically these days, be sure to verify technical compatibility with your audience. For instance, if your website requires visitors to have a particular video capability on their computers, you won’t reach audience members who don’t have that software installed.

To improve the odds that your messages will be successfully perceived by your audience, pay close attention to expectations, ease of use, familiarity, empathy, and technical compatibility.

UNDERSTAND HOW AUDIENCES DECODE MESSAGES  Even though a message may have been received by the audience, it doesn’t “mean” anything until the recipient decodes it and assigns meaning to it. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that your audience will assign the same meaning that you intended. Even well-crafted, well-intentioned communication efforts can fail because assigning meaning is a highly personal process affected by culture, individual experience, learning and thinking styles, hopes, fears, and even temporary moods. Moreover, audiences tend to extract the meaning they expect to get from a message, even

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18 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

if it’s the opposite of what the sender intended.26 In fact, rather than extracting your meaning, it’s more accurate to state that audience members re-create their own meaning—or meanings—from the message. Culture shapes people’s views of the world in profound ways, from determinations of right and wrong to details such as the symbolic meanings attached to specific colours. For example, Canadians tend to admire young professionals who challenge established ways of conducting business. In contrast, in Japan, people generally place a higher value on respect for older colleagues, consensus decision making, and group accomplishment. A younger colleague’s bold proposal to radically reshape business strategy could be interpreted more positively in one culture than in the other—quite independent of the proposal’s merits alone. Audiences will likely respond to a message if they remember it, if they’re able to respond, and if they’re properly motivated to respond.

By explaining why audiences will benefit by responding to your messages, you’ll increase their motivation to respond.

UNDERSTAND HOW AUDIENCES RESPOND TO MESSAGES  After your message is

delivered, received, and correctly decoded, will audience members respond in the way you’d like them to? Probably—if three events occur. First, the recipient has to remember the message long enough to act on it. Simplifying greatly, memory works in several stages: Sensory memory momentarily captures incoming data from the senses; then, whatever the recipient pays attention to is transferred to short-term memory. Information in short-term memory will quickly disappear if it isn’t transferred to long-term memory, which can be done either actively (such as by memorizing a list of items) or passively (such as when a new piece of information connects with something else the recipient already has stored in long-term memory). Finally, the information needs to be retrieved when the recipient needs to act on it.27 In general, people find it easier to remember and retrieve information that is important to them personally or professionally. Consequently, by communicating in ways that are sensitive to your audience’s wants and needs, you greatly increase the chance that your messages will be remembered and retrieved. Second, the recipient has to be able to respond as you wish. Obviously, if recipients simply cannot do what you want them to do, such as paying for a product you are promoting, they will not respond according to your plan. By understanding your audience you can work to minimize these unsuccessful outcomes. Third, the recipient has to be motivated to respond. You’ll encounter many situations in which your audience has the option of responding but isn’t required to—the record company may or may not offer your band a contract, the boss may or may not respond to your request for a raise, and so on. Throughout this course, you’ll learn the techniques for crafting messages that motivate readers to respond. KNOW AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE  The more you know

about the people you’re communicating with, the easier it will be to concentrate on their needs—which, in turn, will make it easier for them to hear your message, understand it, and respond positively. For example, the presentation slide in Figure 1–7 takes an audience-centred approach. Rather than trying to cover all the technical and legal details that are often discussed in insurance plans, this slide addresses the common fears and worries that employees might have as their company moves to a new health insurance plan. Accessible language and clear organization help communicate the message effectively. If you haven’t had the opportunity to communicate with a diverse range of people in your academic career so far, you might be surprised by the different communication styles you will surely encounter on the job. Recognizing and adapting to your audience’s style will improve not only the effectiveness of your communication but also the quality of your working relationship.28

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Transferring Transferring to to the the new new health health plan plan Allow two weeks for transfer Indicate your plan choice by August 31 Plan ahead so that you don’t lose coverage

Call the Benefits Department to discuss special needs Don’t forget child- and elder-care options Schedule time with advisors

Ask for help with forms if needed Call: ext. 7899 Email: [email protected]

Figure 1–7   PowerPoint Slide Showing Audience-Centred Communication

The audience-centred approach is emphasized throughout this book, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practise this approach to communicating more effectively.

STRATEGY 4: MAKE YOUR FEEDBACK CONSTRUCTIVE You will encounter many situations in which you are expected to give and receive feedback regarding communication efforts. Whether giving or receiving criticism, be sure you do so in a constructive way. Constructive feedback, sometimes called constructive criticism, focuses on the process and outcomes of communication, not on the people involved (see Table 1–1). In contrast, destructive feedback delivers criticism with no effort to stimulate improvement.29 For example, “This proposal is a confusing mess, and you failed to

Table 1–1

Constructive feedback focuses on improvement, not personal criticism.

Giving Constructive Feedback

How to Be Constructive

Explanation

Evaluate effectiveness.

Does the document accomplish its intended purpose with accurate information and clear language?

Think through your suggested changes carefully.

Isolated or superficial edits can do more harm than good.

Discuss improvements rather than flaws.

Instead of saying, “This illustration is confusing,” explain how it can be improved to make it clearer. Use this opportunity to “feed forward.”

Focus on controllable behaviour.

Since the writer may not have control over every variable that affected the quality of the message, focus on those elements that the writer can control.

Be specific.

Comments such as “I don’t get this” or “Make this clearer” don’t identify what the writer needs to fix.

Keep feedback impersonal.

Focus comments on the message, not the person who created it.

Verify understanding.

Ask for confirmation from the recipient to make sure that the person understood your feedback.

Time your feedback carefully.

Make sure the writer will have sufficient time to implement the changes you suggested.

Highlight any limitations your feedback may have.

If you didn’t have time to give the document a thorough edit, or if you’re not an expert in some aspect of the content, let the writer know so he or she can handle your comments appropriately.

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20 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Feeding forward provides input during the development phase of a project or report. The creator is able to benefit from the input in “real time” as opposed to after the fact or shortly before the deadline.

React unemotionally when you receive constructive feedback.

convince me of anything” is destructive feedback. Your goal is to be more constructive: “Your proposal could be more effective with a clearer description of the construction process and a well-organized explanation of why the positives outweigh the negatives.” When giving feedback, avoid personal attacks and give clear guidelines for improvement. Is there an opportunity to use a feed forward approach in the future? That is, can feedback be provided during the development phase as part of a continuous improvement process? When you receive constructive feedback, resist the immediate urge to defend your work or deny the validity of the feedback. Remaining open to criticism isn’t always easy when you’ve put long nights and much effort into a project, but feedback is a valuable opportunity to learn and improve. Disconnect your emotions from the work, and view it simply as something you can improve. Many writers also find it helpful to step back, think a while about the feedback, and let their emotions settle down before making corrections. Of course, don’t automatically assume that even well-intentioned feedback is necessarily correct. You are responsible for the final quality of the message, so ensure that any suggested changes are valid ones. Once you have had some time to reflect on the feedback, see if you have any questions or need further clarification.

STRATEGY 5: BE SENSITIVE TO BUSINESS ETIQUETTE Respect, courtesy, and common sense will get you through most etiquette challenges on the job.

In today’s hectic, competitive world, the notion of etiquette (the expected norms of behaviour in a particular situation) can seem outdated and unimportant. However, the way you conduct yourself can have a profound influence on your company’s success and your career. When executives hire and promote you, they expect your behaviour to protect the company’s reputation. The more you understand such expectations, the better chance you have of avoiding careerdamaging mistakes. In any setting, long lists of etiquette “rules” can be overwhelming. You’ll never memorize all of them or remember to follow them in the heat of the moment. Remember three principles that will get you through almost any situation: respect, courtesy, and common sense. Moreover, these principles will encourage forgiveness if you do happen to make a mistake. As you encounter new situations, take a few minutes to learn the expectations of the other people involved. You can begin with reading travel guidebooks; they are a valuable source of information about norms and customs in other countries. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, either. People will respect your concern and curiosity. You’ll gradually accumulate considerable knowledge, which will help you feel comfortable and be effective in a wide range of business situations.

APPLYING WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED TO THE COMMUNICATION PROCESS With these additional insights into what makes communication succeed, take another look at the communication process model. The communication process presents many opportunities for messages to get lost, distorted, or misinterpreted as they travel from sender to receiver. Fortunately, you can take action at every step in the process to increase your chances of success. Figure 1–8 identifies the key challenges in the process and summarizes the steps you can take along the way to become a more effective communicator.

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CHAPTER 1  ACHIEVING SUCCESS THROUGH EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION 21 8. Audience provides feedback to the sender

Potential Problems No means of providing feedback Feedback ignored Misinterpretation of nonverbal signals Solutions Enable and encourage feedback. Listen to and learn from feedback. Learn to interpret nonverbal signals.

Process 1. Sender has an idea

Potential Problems Unclear ideas Uncertain goals

Solutions Clarify purpose before beginning.

2. Sender encodes the idea in a message

3. Sender produces the message in a medium

4. Sender transmits message through a channel

5. Audience receives the message

6. Audience decodes the message

7. Audience responds to the message

Unclear writing Inefficient writing Unfocused writing

Inappropriate medium Distracting design

Noise and distractions Competing messages Filters Channel breakdowns

Message missed Message ignored

Meaning misinterpreted

No response Wrong response Message forgotten

Outline carefully. Improve writing skills.

Choose medium carefully.

Reduce noise and distractions. Eliminate filters. Change restrictive policies and corporate cultures. Monitor for breakdowns.

Focus on audience needs. Meet audience expectations. Make messages easy to find.

Understand audience beliefs and biases. Use compatible language and images. Maintain good etiquette.

Emphasize benefits of responding. Clarify desired response, making it easy to respond.

Figure 1–8  Becoming an Effective Business Communicator

Using Technology to Improve Business Communication Today’s businesses rely heavily on technology to improve the communication process. In fact, many of the technologies you might use in your personal life, from microblogs to video games or virtual worlds, are also used in business. You will find that technology is discussed extensively throughout this book, with specific advice on using common tools to meet communication challenges. Anyone who has used a computer, a smartphone, or other advanced gadget knows that the benefits of technology are not automatic. When poorly designed or inappropriately used, technology can hinder communication more than it helps. Communicate effectively by understanding the social communication model, keeping technology in perspective, guarding against information overload, using technological tools productively, and reconnecting with people frequently.

6

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain five strategies for using communication technology successfully.

Communicating in today’s business environment nearly always requires some level of technical competence.

UNDERSTANDING THE SOCIAL COMMUNICATION MODEL The basic model presented in Figure 1–1 shows how a single idea moves from one sender to one receiver. In a larger sense, it also helps represent the traditional nature of much business communication, which was primarily defined

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22 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

The social communication model is interactive, conversational, and usually open to all who wish to participate.

The conversational and interactive social communication model is revolutionizing business communication.

The Business Communication 2.0 approach can increase the speed of communication, lower costs, improve access to expertise, and boost employee satisfaction.

by a publishing or broadcasting mindset. Externally, companies issued carefully scripted messages to a mass audience that often had few options for responding to those messages or initiating messages of their own. Customers and other interested parties had few ways to connect with one another to ask questions, share information, or offer support. Internally, communication tended to follow the same “we talk, you listen” model, with upper managers issuing directives to lower-level supervisors and employees. However, a variety of technologies have enabled and inspired a new approach to business communication. In contrast to the publishing mindset, this new social communication model is interactive and conversational. Customers and other groups are now empowered through social media, electronic media that transform passive audiences into active participants in the communication process by allowing them to share content, revise content, respond to content, or contribute new content. Just as Web 2.0 signifies this second generation of World Wide Web technologies (that is, social networks, blogs, and other tools that you’ll read about), Business Communication 2.0 is a convenient label for this new approach to business communication. On the surface, this approach might look like it’s just added some new media tools. However, as Figure 1–9 shows, the changes are much deeper and more profound. In a typical 1.0 approach, messages are scripted by designated communicators, approved by someone in authority, distributed through selected channels, and delivered without modification to a passive audience that is not invited or even expected to respond. In the 2.0 approach, the rules change dramatically. Customers and other stakeholders participate in, influence, and often take control of conversations in the marketplace. They rely on one another for information about products, offer technical support, and even participate in group buying using social tools.30 For both internal and external communication, Web 2.0 tools can increase the speed of communication, lower communication costs, improve access to pockets of expertise, and boost employee satisfaction.31 Of course, no company, no matter how enthusiastically it embraces the 2.0 mindset, is going to be run as a social club in which everyone has a say and a vote. Instead, a hybrid approach is emerging in which some communications follow the traditional approach and others follow the 2.0 approach.32

Business Communication 1.0 Tendencies

Business Communication 2.0 Tendencies

Publication Lecture Intrusion Unidirectional One to many Control Low message frequency Few channels Information hoarding Static Hierarchical Structured Isolation Planned Isolated

Conversation Discussion Permission Bidirectional, multidirectional One to one, many to many Influence High message frequency Many channels Information sharing Dynamic Egalitarian Amorphous Collaboration Reactive Responsive

Figure 1–9   Business Communication: 1.0 versus 2.0

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CHAPTER 1  ACHIEVING SUCCESS THROUGH EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION 23

If you’re an active user of Web 2.0 technologies, you’ll fit right in with this new communication environment—and possibly even have a head start on more experienced professionals who are still adapting to the new tools and techniques.

KEEPING TECHNOLOGY IN PERSPECTIVE Perhaps the single most important point to remember about technology is that it is simply a tool—a means by which you can accomplish certain tasks. Technology is an aid to interpersonal communication, not a replacement for it. Technology can’t think for you or communicate for you, and if you lack some essential skills, technology probably can’t fill in the gaps. While this advice might sound obvious, it is easy to get caught up in the “gee whiz” factor, particularly with new technologies. No matter how exotic or entertaining it may be, technology has business value only if it helps deliver the right information to the right people at the right time.

Don’t rely too much on technology or let it overwhelm the communication process.

GUARDING AGAINST INFORMATION OVERLOAD The overuse or misuse of communication technology can lead to information overload, in which people receive more information than they can effectively process. Information overload makes it difficult to discriminate between useful and useless information, lowers productivity, and amplifies employee stress both on the job and at home—even to the point of causing health and relationship problems.33 As a recipient, you often have some level of control over the number and types of messages you choose to receive. Use the filtering features of your communication systems to isolate high-priority messages that deserve your attention. Also, be wary of subscribing to too many blog feeds, Twitter follows, Facebook updates, and other sources of recurring messages. Focus on the information you truly need to do your job. As a sender, you can help reduce information overload by making sure you don’t send unnecessary messages. In addition, remember to identify important or urgent messages so that the receiver can prioritize any actions that need to be taken.

Information overload results when people receive more information than they can effectively process.

Employees who are comfortable using communication technologies have a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace.

USING TECHNOLOGICAL TOOLS PRODUCTIVELY

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Radius Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, IM, and other technologies are key parts of what has been called the “information technology paradox,” in which information tools can waste as much time as they save. Concerns over inappropriate use of social networking sites, for example, have led many companies to ban employees from accessing them during work hours.34 Inappropriate web use not only distracts employees from work responsibilities but can leave employers open to lawsuits for sexual harassment if inappropriate images are displayed or transmitted around the company.35 Social media have created another set of managerial challenges, given the risk that employee blogs or social networking pages can expose confidential information or damage a firm’s reputation in the marketplace. With all these technologies, the best solution lies in developing clear policies that are enforced evenly for all employees.36 In addition to using your tools appropriately, knowing how to use them efficiently can make a big difference in your productivity. You don’t have to become an expert in most cases, but you need to be familiar with the basic features and functions of the tools you are expected to use on the job. As a manager, you also need to ensure that your employees have sufficient training to productively use the tools you expect them to use.

Why should you step out from behind your computer to connect in person? What are the benefits of nondigital face-to-face communication?

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24 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

RECONNECTING WITH PEOPLE FREQUENTLY

No matter how much technology is involved, communication is still about people connecting with people.

In spite of technology’s efficiency and speed, it may not be the best choice for every communication situation. First, even in the best circumstances, technology can’t match the rich experience of person-to-person contact. Suppose you email a colleague asking how her sales presentation to an important client went, and she simply replies, “Fine.” What does fine mean? Is an order expected soon? Did she lose the sale? Was the client rude and she doesn’t want to talk about it? If you reconnect with her, perhaps visit her in person, she might provide additional information, or you might be able to offer advice or support during a difficult time. Second, most people need to connect with other people. You can create impressive documents and presentations without ever leaving your desk or meeting anyone in person. But if you stay hidden behind technology, people won’t get to know you nearly as well. You might be funny, bright, and helpful, but you’re just a voice on the phone or a name on a document until people can interact with you in person. As technological options increase, people seem to need the human touch even more.

Making Ethical Communication Choices 7

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Discuss the importance of ethics in business communication, and differentiate between an ethical dilemma and an ethical lapse.

Any time you try to mislead your audience, the result is unethical communication.

Ethics are the accepted principles of conduct that govern behaviour within a society. Put another way, ethical principles define the boundary between right and wrong. Ethics has been defined as “knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is the right thing to do.”37 To make the right choices as a business communicator you have a responsibility to think through not only what you say but also the consequences of saying it. Ethical behaviour is a companywide concern, of course, but because communication efforts are the public face of a company, they are subjected to particularly rigorous scrutiny from regulators, legislators, investors, consumer groups, environmental groups, labour organizations, and anyone else affected by business activities. Ethical communication includes all relevant information, is true in every sense, and is not deceptive in any way. In contrast, unethical communication can include falsehoods and misleading information (or can withhold important information). Some examples of unethical communication include the following:38 • Plagiarism. Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s words or other creative product as your own. Note that plagiarism can also be illegal if it violates a copyright, which is a form of legal protection for the expression of creative ideas.39 • Omitting essential information. Information is essential if your audience needs it to make an intelligent, objective decision. • Selective misquoting. Deliberately omitting damaging or unflattering comments to paint a better picture of you or your company is unethical if the picture you create is untruthful. • Misrepresenting numbers. Statistics and other data can be unethically manipulated by increasing or decreasing numbers, exaggerating, altering statistics, or omitting numeric data. • Distorting visuals. Images can also be manipulated in unethical ways, such as making a product seem bigger than it really is or changing the scale of graphs and charts to exaggerate or conceal differences. • Failing to respect privacy or information security needs. Failing to respect the privacy of others or failing to adequately protect information entrusted to your care can also be considered unethical (and is sometimes illegal).

Transparency gives audience members access to all the information they need in order to process messages accurately.

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The widespread adoption of social media has increased the attention given to the issue of transparency, which in this context refers to a sense of openness—giving all participants in a conversation access to the information they need to accurately

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process the messages they are receiving. A key aspect of transparency is knowing who is behind the messages one receives. Consider the promotional event that Netflix staged in Toronto to announce the launch of its streaming video service in Canada. The outdoor news conference seemed to attract dozens of curious people who were excited about the availability of Netflix. However, many of these people who “spontaneously” showed up were actually paid actors with instructions to “look really excited, particularly if asked by media to do any interviews about the prospect of Netflix in Canada.” The company apologized when the stunt was exposed.40 A major issue in business communication transparency is stealth marketing, which involves attempting to promote products and services to customers who don’t know they’re being marketed to. A common stealth marketing technique is rewarding someone to promote products to his or her friends without telling them it’s a form of advertising. Critics—including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association—assert that such techniques are deceptive because they don’t give their targets the opportunity to raise their instinctive defences against the persuasive powers of marketing messages.41 Aside from ethical concerns, trying to fool the public is simply bad for business. As LaSalle University communication professor Michael Smith puts it, “The public backlash can be long, deep, and damaging to a company’s reputation.”42

The controversial practice of stealth marketing involves marketing to people without their knowledge.

DISTINGUISHING AN ETHICAL DILEMMA FROM AN ETHICAL LAPSE Some ethical questions are easy to recognize and resolve, but others are not. Deciding what is ethical can be a considerable challenge in complex business situations. An ethical dilemma involves choosing among alternatives that aren’t clear-cut. Perhaps two conflicting alternatives are both ethical and valid, or perhaps the alternatives lie somewhere in the grey area between clearly right and clearly wrong. Every company has responsibilities to multiple groups of people inside and outside the firm, and those various groups often have competing interests. For instance, employees generally want higher wages and more benefits, but investors who have risked their money in the company want management to keep costs low so that profits are strong enough to drive up the stock price. Both sides have a valid ethical position. In contrast, an ethical lapse is making a clearly unethical (and frequently illegal) choice. Suppose you have decided to change jobs and have discreetly landed an interview with your boss’s largest competitor. You get along great with the interviewer, who is impressed enough with you to offer you a position on the spot. The new position is a step up from your current job, and the pay is much more than what you’re getting now. You accept the job and agree to start next month. Then, as you’re shaking hands with the interviewer, she asks you to bring along profiles of your current company’s 10 largest customers when you report for work. Do you comply with her request? How do you decide between what’s ethical and what is not?

Conflicting priorities and the vast grey areas between right and wrong create ethical dilemmas for an organization’s communicators.

An ethical lapse is knowing that something is wrong and doing it anyway.

ENSURING ETHICAL COMMUNICATION Ensuring ethical business communications requires three elements: ethical individuals, ethical company leadership, and the appropriate policies and structures to support employees’ efforts to make ethical choices.43 Moreover, these three elements need to work in harmony. If employees see company executives making unethical decisions and flouting company guidelines, they might conclude that the guidelines are meaningless and emulate their bosses’ unethical behaviour. Employers have a responsibility to establish clear guidelines for ethical behaviour, including business communication. Many companies establish an explicit ethics policy by using a written code of ethics to help employees determine what is

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Responsible employers establish clear ethical guidelines for their employees to follow.

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26 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Code of Business Conduct 2.

POLICY DETAILS

2.1.

Our Principles of Ethical Conduct 2.1.1

Personal Integrity

Ethical behaviour is an essential part of our job and is a personal responsibility we all share. It means performing our job fully and competently and it also means being accountable for our behaviour and for supporting the values, principles and standards upon which our reputation rests. Many aspects of our business are governed by laws and regulations and compliance with such laws is basic to ethical conduct. Bell and its employees are subject to, and are expected to comply with, the laws, rules and regulations of all countries in which we operate, as well as the expectations and requirements of our various regulators. These laws include, but are not limited to, telecommunications laws, securities laws and regulations, laws prohibiting the corruption of foreign officials, as well as lobbying, environmental and employment legislation. Ethical behaviour, however, goes beyond mere compliance with the law. It involves thinking through the possible impact of our decisions on all interested parties – customers, employees, unions, business partners, suppliers, investors, government as well as the communities and environment in which we live and work. Although the Code lays out the fundamental principles of ethical and legal conduct, it cannot anticipate every ethical dilemma or situation we may encounter as we perform our jobs. This would be impossible given that the communications industry is evolving so rapidly and so unpredictably. Consequently, we may often find ourselves caught in a situation or facing an ethical problem not explicitly covered in the Code. In this case, we must rely on our internal sense of what is right – our moral compass – to guide us in making the right decision. When faced with a difficult or unclear situation, it may help to ask the following questions such as: how would I feel if, rather than initiating this action, I was on the receiving end? how would my customer react if he/she knew I was breaking the rules or distorting the facts to make a sale? if I do this, how will I feel afterwards? Would I want my co-workers, friends or family to find out? if my actions became public, how would they be reported in the media? Assuming personal responsibility for our actions means we can’t blame someone else for our behaviour. Conversely, no one – not even a manager – can force us to commit an illegal or unethical act that may damage the Company’s reputation, or our own. It also means we have a duty to report illegal acts or violations of Company rules, policies or the Code to management. Turning a blind eye to wrongdoing – in effect condoning such behaviour – is itself unethical. Any breach of the Code or Company policies or evidence of illegal behaviour will be taken very seriously. Depending on the nature and severity of the case, employees who breach the Code, violate Company policy or commit an illegal act will face immediate discipline, up to and including dismissal, as well as possible civil or criminal prosecution. 2.1.2

Getting Help with Ethical Issues – the Business Conduct Help Line

Individual responsibility does not mean you are on your own when facing an ethical issue. Don’t be reluctant to ask any questions you might have on the Code or raise issues. Like many Canadian corporations, Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) posts its code of ethical behaviour on its website. Why does an organization do so? Examine several corporate codes of ethics. What similarities do you find among them? What differences do you see? Courtesy: Bell Canada Enterprises

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PROMOTING WORKPLACE ETHICS

Ethical Boundaries: Where Would You Draw the Line?

At the very least, you owe your employer an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay: your best efforts, obedience to the rules, a good attitude, respect for your employer’s property, and a professional appearance. Such duties and considerations seem clear-cut, but where does your obligation to your employer end? For instance, where would you draw the line in communication situations such as the following?

• Writing your résumé so that an embarrassing two-year lapse won’t be obvious

• Telling your best friend about your company’s upcoming merger right after mailing the formal announcement to your shareholders • Hinting to a co-worker (who’s a close friend) that it’s time for her to look around for something new, when you’ve already been told confidentially that she’s scheduled to be fired at the end of the month • Saying nothing when you witness one employee taking credit for another’s successful idea • Preserving your position by presenting yourself to supervisors as the only person capable of achieving an objective

• Pirating computer software; that is, using one copy on more than one computer instead of paying for licences to duplicate the product • Making up an excuse when (for the fourth time this month) you have to pick up your child from school early and miss an important business meeting • Calling in sick because you’re taking a few days off and you want to use up some of the sick leave you’ve accumulated The ethics involved in these situations may seem perfectly unambiguous . . . until you think about them. But wherever you are and whatever the circumstances, you owe your employer your best efforts. And time and again, it will be up to you to decide whether those efforts are ethical. CAREER APPLICATIONS

1. List ethical behaviours you would expect from your employees, and compare your list with those of your classmates.

2. As the supervisor of the office filing clerks, you must deal with several workers who have a tendency to gossip about their colleagues. List five actions you might take to resolve the situation.

acceptable. A code is often part of a larger program of employee training and communication channels that allow employees to ask questions and report instances of questionable ethics. For example, at Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), employees can seek advice on matters regarding ethical behaviour and report illegal or unethical behaviour using the Business Conduct Help Line, www.clearviewconnects.com, an online confidential and anonymous reporting service.44 To ensure ongoing compliance with their codes of ethics, many companies also conduct ethics audits to monitor ethical progress and to point out any weaknesses that need to be addressed. However, the law doesn’t cover every situation that you’ll encounter in your career. In the absence of clear legal boundaries or ethical guidelines, ask yourself the following questions about your business communications:45 • Have you defined the situation fairly and accurately? • What is your intention in communicating this message? • What impact will this message have on the people who receive it or who might be affected by it? • Will the message achieve the greatest possible good while doing the least possible harm? • Will the assumptions you’ve made change over time? That is, will a decision that seems ethical now seem unethical in the future? • Are you comfortable with your decision? Would you be embarrassed if it were printed in tomorrow’s newspaper or spread across the Internet? If all else fails, think about a person whom you admire and ask yourself what he or she would think of your decision. If you wouldn’t be proud to describe your choice to someone you admire and respect—someone whose opinion of you matters—that’s a strong signal that you might be making a poor ethical choice.

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If you can’t decide whether a choice is ethical, picture yourself explaining it to someone whose opinion you value.

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28 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

ENSURING LEGAL COMMUNICATION Business communication is governed by a wide variety of laws designed to ensure accurate, complete messages.

In addition to ethical guidelines, business communication is also bound by a wide variety of laws and regulations, including the following areas: • Promotional communication. Marketing specialists need to be aware of the many laws that govern truth and accuracy in advertising. • Contracts. A contract is a legally binding promise between two parties, in which one party makes a specified offer and the other party accepts. Contracts are fundamental to virtually every aspect of business, from product sales to property rental and from credit cards and loans to professional service agreements.46 • Employment communication. Provincial, territorial, and federal laws govern communication between employers and both potential and current employees. For example, job descriptions must be written in a way that doesn’t intentionally or unintentionally discriminate against women, visible minorities, Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, and persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity. • Intellectual property. Intellectual property (IP) includes patents, copyrighted materials, trade secrets, and even Internet domain names.47 Bloggers in particular need to be careful about IP protection, given the carefree way that some post the work of others without offering proper credit. For guidelines on this hot topic, get the free Legal Guide for Bloggers at www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal. • Financial reporting. Finance and accounting professionals who work for publicly traded companies (those that sell stock to the public) must adhere to stringent reporting laws. For example, they must ensure that all investor communications are accurate and transparent. • Defamation. Negative comments about another party raise the possibility of defamation, the intentional communication of false statements that damage character or reputation.48 (Written defamation is called libel; spoken defamation is called slander.) Someone suing for defamation must prove (1) that the statement is false, (2) that the language is injurious to the person’s reputation, and (3) that the statement has been published. • Transparency requirements. Governments around the world are taking steps to help ensure that consumers and other parties know who is behind the information they receive, particularly from online sources. The European Union, for instance, outlaws a number of online marketing tactics, including “flogs,” short for “fake blogs,” in which an employee or a paid agent posing as an independent consumer posts positive stories about a company’s products.49 In the United States, the FTC recently adopted a requirement that product-review bloggers disclose any relationship—such as receiving payments or free goods—they have with the companies whose products they discuss in their blogs.50 If you have any doubts about the legality of a message you intend to distribute, ask for advice from your company’s legal department. A small dose of caution can prevent huge legal headaches and protect your company’s reputation in the marketplace.

Applying What You’ve Learned At the beginning of this chapter, you read about Wave’s use of social media to add value to its accounting application product. Every chapter opens with a similar sliceof-life vignette. As you read through each chapter, think about the person and the company highlighted in the vignette. Become familiar with the various concepts presented in the chapter, and imagine how they might apply to the featured scenario. At the end of each chapter, you’ll take part in an innovative simulation called “On the Job: Performing Communication Tasks.” You’ll play the role of a person

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working in the highlighted organization, and you’ll face a situation you could encounter on the job. You will be presented with communication scenarios, each with several possible courses of action. It’s up to you to recommend one course of action from the simulations as homework, as teamwork, as material for in-class discussion, or in a host of other ways. These scenarios let you explore various communication ideas and apply the concepts and techniques from the chapter. As you tackle each problem, think about the material you covered and consider your own experience as a communicator. You’ll probably be surprised to discover how much you already know about business communication.

SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1 Explain why effective communication is important to your success in today’s business environment. Your ability to communicate can help your company become more efficient, innovative, and responsive. As your career advances and you achieve positions of greater responsibility, your communication skills will gain in importance because you will communicate about increasingly important matters to larger and larger audiences. Employers will recognize your communication abilities and value you as an employee.

2 Identify eight communication skills that successful employers expect from their employees. Employers expect their employees to organize ideas and information effectively, express and present ideas coherently and persuasively, and listen carefully for the true meaning behind words. They also want employees to communicate well in a diverse workplace, use communication technologies, and follow the standards of correct writing and speaking. Finally, employers expect their workers to practise courtesy and respect and communicate in an ethical manner.

3 Describe the five characteristics of effective business communication. Effective business messages supply information that helps others complete tasks, provide factual support for opinions, and clarify and summarize information to help audiences comprehend documents quickly. Good business writing also states the desired action, so the reader knows how to respond, and persuades audiences by showing benefits.

4 Discuss six factors that make business communication unique. Business communication is unique because of globalization and diversity, which create opportunities to learn more about markets and to communicate more effectively with various market segments. Another factor is the increasing value placed on business information, which has created the function of knowledge workers, who acquire, process, and communicate information. For its part, technology provides workers with the challenges of using it intelligently and keeping up to date with innovations. Another factor is the evolution toward flatter organizational structures: these structures reduce the number of layers of management, giving employees more

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responsibility for communication. In addition, teamwork is a unique feature of business communication: companies increasingly rely on teams and expect each member to communicate effectively in a team. Finally, cybersecurity is a global issue. Increased awareness and education is needed at all levels of an organization in order to protect intellectual property and individual privacy. All of these factors increase the need for effective business communication skills, including the management of barriers, such as information overload or language differences, that can affect the successful transmission and reception of messages.

5 Describe five strategies for communicating more effectively on the job. One method is to reduce distractions caused by technology, sounds, and emotional concerns. Successful communicators also focus on the needs of their audience and adapt to their communication styles. Effective communicators also practise their communication skills at every opportunity, provide constructive feedback or feed forward and support continuous improvement, and learn the norms of business etiquette in a variety of situations.

6 Explain five strategies for using communication technology successfully. Employees who use communication technology effectively adapt it to their own and their audiences’ needs and realize that it does not necessarily supplant traditional communication forms. As well, it’s important to understand the social communication model, in which customers and groups have become active, influential participants in communication. Employees should keep technology in perspective, and be familiar with its strengths and its weaknesses in relation to their specific purposes. They should also guard against information overload and use technology productively, remembering that it is only a tool to aid communication. Finally, employees who use communication technology wisely know that face-to-face communication adds the human touch, which is essential for professional relationships.

7 Discuss the importance of ethics in business communication, and differentiate between an ethical dilemma and an ethical lapse. Ethics are crucial to

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30 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

effective business communication because they can support or damage a company’s reputation in the eyes of its stakeholders. Ethical communicators do not deceive their audiences through language, images, and behaviours that manipulate, discriminate, or exaggerate. They also ensure that they follow the wide variety of laws and regulations that govern business communication. An ethical dilemma

ON THE JOB

involves choosing between two or more alternatives that are neither clearly ethical nor clearly unethical, such as alternatives that are all ethical but conflicting or alternatives that lie somewhere in the grey areas between right and wrong. An ethical lapse involves choosing an alternative that is clearly unethical or illegal, perhaps placing your own desire or ambition above the welfare of others.

PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT WAVE

You’ve recently joined the staff of Wave as a summer intern in the community, content, and communications department. In your role, you look for opportunities to help Wave build positive relationships with its customers. Use what you’ve learned in this chapter to address the following challenges: 1. Your supervisor has given you the job of announcing a free accounting webinar of interest to Wave customers. You need to choose the communication channel that will reach the widest audience to advertise the event. Of the following, which channel do you choose, and why? Be sure to consider the features of each channel. a. Wave’s blog b. Twitter c. Facebook d. Postal (snail mail) letter 2. Wave has hired another intern to work over the summer. The culture in your office is conscientious and professional but with a generally informal atmosphere. However, as with any company, individual employees vary in how closely their own styles and personalities fit the corporate culture. For example, the new intern tends to communicate in a formal, distant style that some employees find off-putting and impersonal. Your supervisor recognizes that the intern is a good worker but has asked you to speak with him about

adapting to the office vibe. How should you initiate the conversation? a. Tell your supervisor that the intern is doing his job well, and that’s what counts. b. In a private conversation with the intern, explain the importance of fitting into the corporate culture and give him a two-week deadline to change his style. c. In a private conversation with the intern, explain the reasoning behind the company’s informal culture and its contribution to the company’s success; suggest that he might find his work here more enjoyable if he modifies his approach somewhat. d. Allow the intern to continue communicating in the same style; after all, that’s his personal style, and it’s not up to the company to change it. 3. One of your jobs at Wave is to respond to comments and questions via Twitter. One follower has been complaining about the software despite frequent requests that she email customer service at Wave. Your supervisor wants you to suggest a solution. Which is the best answer and why? a. Using Twitter, invite her to Wave’s office for a help session with a customer service specialist. b. Complain to Twitter about her posts. c. Criticize her tweets on Wave’s Twitter account. d. Ask her to email customer service at Wave directly to discuss her concerns.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. Define stakeholders and explain why they are important. 2. How is globalization changing communication in the workplace? 3. How does effective communication help employees interact with customers and colleagues in this age of technology?

6. What is the grapevine? Why should managers know how it works? 7. In which of the eight steps of the communication process do messages get encoded and decoded? 8. Why should communicators take an audience-centred approach to communication?

4. How does internal communication differ from external communication?

9. How does corporate culture affect the communication climate within an organization?

5. In what directions can information travel within an organization’s formal hierarchy?

10. Define ethics. Explain the ethical responsibilities of communicators.

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CHAPTER 1  ACHIEVING SUCCESS THROUGH EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION 31

APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. Why do you think good communication in an organization improves employees’ attitudes and performance? Explain. 2. Under what circumstances might you want to limit the feedback you receive from an audience of readers or listeners? Explain. 3. Would written or spoken messages be more susceptible to noise? Why? 4. As a manager, how can you impress on your employees the importance of including both negative and positive information in messages? 5. Ethical Choices Because of your excellent communication skills, your supervisor always asks you to write his

reports for him. When you overhear the CEO complimenting him on his logical organization and clear writing style, he responds as if he’d written all those reports himself. What kind of ethical choice does this represent? What can you do in this situation? Briefly explain your solution and your reasoning. 6. Search for the Canadian Centre for Ethics and Corporate Policy website and examine its resources section. How can these tools be used to help an organization create an ethical corporate culture? What can an individual employee do to influence a corporate culture that adopts ethical practices?

RUNNING CASES > CASE 1  Noreen Noreen is working toward a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) and takes her studies via distance education through a Canadian university. She works full time at Petro-Go, an international fuel company, in one of their call centres as a customer service representative (CSR). She is the team leader for a group of CSRs located in the “Go Points” program department. Her future career goal is to complete her BBA and obtain a senior management position within a large international firm. Noreen is on the social committee, and her manager asks her to organize a potluck lunch for 40 employees in her call centre department. QUESTIONS a. Suggest an appropriate type of communication (for example, casual conversation, formal letter, meeting, memo, email, bulletin board notice) and briefly explain your choice.

b. Is this a horizontal flow or a downward flow of communication? Formal or informal? c. What must Noreen consider when planning this event? d. What must Noreen consider when communicating the plans? e. What communication barriers might she encounter, and how should she overcome those barriers? YOUR TASK Assume that all the plans are arranged and now Noreen just needs to notify the guests. Write a memo that she will distribute to the 40 employees in her department. Ensure that the necessary details are in the invitation memo. Exchange memos with another student and ask for constructive criticism on how to improve your communication.

> CASE 2  Kwong Kwong, a new Canadian, is enrolled in a three-year accounting co-op diploma program at a local college. He is currently in his third semester and will be placed in a co-op position next term. There he will apply what he has learned in his studies and at the same time gain valuable work experience. His future career goal is to complete the CGA (Certified General Accountant) requirements and then open his own accounting firm. Kwong will be interviewed by a prospective co-op employer. He needs to be successful in the interview to obtain the placement. QUESTIONS a. What research should Kwong do before the interview? b. Which employability skills do you think Kwong may currently possess, and which skills may he still need to develop? You can refer to Figure 1–2, or you can print

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out the Employability Skills 2000+ information from www.conferenceboard.ca/topics/education/learning-tools/ employability-skills.aspx. c. How will he emphasize his strong skills and de-emphasize his weaker skills during the interview? d. What ethical choices may Kwong have to make? e. What communication barriers may Kwong be faced with (both oral and written)? Give a specific example. YOUR TASK Make a list of the employability skills you believe you possess and employability skills you believe you need to improve. Now compare these to the Employability Skills 2000+ chart in Figure 1–2. What can you do to fill in the gaps? What resources do you have that could help you develop the missing skills?

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32 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE Read the following document and then (1) analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each sentence and (2) revise the document so that it follows this chapter’s guidelines. It has come to my attention that many of you are lying on your time cards. If you come in late, you should not put 8:00 a.m. on your card. If you take a long lunch, you should not put 1:00 p.m. on your time card. I will not stand for this type of cheating. I simply have no choice but to institute a time-clock system. Beginning next Monday, all employees will have to punch in and punch out whenever they come and go from the work area.

The time clock will be right by the entrance to each work area, so you will have no excuse for not punching in. Anyone who is late for work or late coming back from lunch more than three times will have to answer to me. I don’t care if you had to take a nap or if you girls had to shop. This is a place of business, and we do not want to be taken advantage of by slackers who are cheaters to boot. It is too bad that a few bad apples always have to spoil things for everyone.

EXERCISES 1.1 Internal Communication: Planning the Flow

1.3 Ethical Choices: Business Dilemmas

For these tasks, identify the necessary direction of communication (downward, upward, horizontal), suggest an appropriate type of communication (casual conversation, formal interview, meeting, workshop, videoconference, IM, newsletter, memo, bulletin board notice, and so on), and briefly explain your suggestion. a. As personnel manager, you want to announce details about this year’s company picnic. b. As director of internal communication, you want to convince top management of the need for a company newsletter. c. As production manager, you want to make sure that both the sales manager and the finance manager receive your scheduling estimates. d. As marketing manager, you want to help employees understand the company’s goals and its attitudes toward workers.

In less than a page, explain why you think each of the following is or is not ethical. a. Keeping quiet about a possible environmental hazard you’ve just discovered in your company’s processing plant. b. Overselling the benefits of instant messaging to your company’s management; they never seem to understand the benefits of technology, so you believe that stretching the truth just a bit is the only way to convince them to make the right choice. c. Telling an associate and close friend that she’d better pay more attention to her work responsibilities or management will fire her. d. Recommending the purchase of unnecessary equipment to use up your allocated funds before the end of the fiscal year, so your budget won’t be cut next year.

1.2 Communication Networks: Formal or Informal? An old school friend suddenly phoned you to say, “I had to call you. You’d better keep this quiet, but when I heard my company was buying you guys out, I was shocked. I had no idea that a company as large as yours could sink so fast. Your group must be in pretty bad shape over there!” Your stomach suddenly turned queasy, and you felt a chill go up your spine. You’d heard nothing about any buyout, and before you could even get your friend off the phone, you were wondering what you should do. Choose one course of action and briefly explain your choice. a. Contact your CEO directly and relate what you’ve heard. b. Ask co-workers whether they’ve heard anything about a buyout. c. Discuss the phone call confidentially with your immediate supervisor. d. Keep quiet (there’s nothing you can do about the situation anyway).

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1.4 The Changing Workplace: Personal Expression at Work Blogging has become a popular way for employees to communicate with customers and other parties outside the company. In some cases, employee blogs have been beneficial both for companies and their customers by providing helpful information and “putting a human face” on formal and imposing corporations. However, in some other cases, employees have been fired for posting information that their employers said was inappropriate. One particular area of concern is criticism of the company or individual managers. Should employees be allowed to criticize their employers in a public forum such as a blog? In a brief email message, argue for or against company policies that prohibit any critical information in employee blogs.

1.5 Internet: Codes of Ethics Industry Canada prepares reports for consumers, researchers, and businesspeople. Visit Industry Canada’s website and review its report Voluntary Codes: A Guide for Their Development

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CHAPTER 1  ACHIEVING SUCCESS THROUGH EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION 33

and Use at www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/ca00863.html (you can download the PDF version). Read the section titled “Features of Voluntary Codes.” Next, find a Canadian corporation (other than BCE) that has a code of ethics posted on the Internet. Does the code of ethics you found follow the features? Write two or three paragraphs describing the extent to which the code you found follows the features, and describe how it can be improved. Submit your essay to your instructor.

1.6 Communication Process: Know Your Audience Top management has asked you to speak at an upcoming executive meeting to present your arguments for a more open communication climate. Which of the following would be most important for you to know about your audience before giving your presentation? Briefly explain your choice. a. How many top managers will be attending? b. What management style members of your audience prefer? c. How firmly these managers are set in their ways?

1.7 Ethical Choices: The Go-Between Your boss often uses you as a sounding board for her ideas. Now she seems to want you to act as an unofficial messenger, passing her ideas along to the staff without mentioning her involvement and informing her of what staff members say without telling them you’re going to repeat their responses. What questions should you ask yourself as you consider the ethical implications of this situation? Write a short paragraph explaining the ethical choice you will make in this situation.

1.8 Communication Etiquette: Training for All? Potential customers frequently visit your production facility before making purchase decisions. You and the people who report to you in the sales department have received extensive training in etiquette issues because you deal with high-profile clients so frequently. However, the rest of the workforce has not received such training, and you worry that someone might inadvertently say or do something that would offend a potential customer. In a two-paragraph email, explain to the general manager why you think anyone who might come in contact with customers should receive basic etiquette training.

1.9 Teamwork: Know Your Audience Your boss has asked your work group to research and report on corporate child-care facilities. Of course, you’ll want to know who (besides your boss) will read your report. Working with

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two team members, list four or five other factors you’ll want to know about the situation and about your audience before starting your research. Briefly explain why the items on your list are important.

1.10 Communication Process: Analyzing Miscommunication Use the eight steps of the communication process to analyze a miscommunication you’ve recently had with a co-worker, supervisor, classmate, teacher, friend, or family member. What idea were you trying to share? How did you encode and transmit it? Did the receiver get the message? Did the receiver correctly decode the message? How do you know? Based on your analysis, identify and explain the barriers that prevented your successful communication in this instance.

1.11 Ethical Choices: Withholding Information You’ve been given the critical assignment of selecting the site for your company’s new plant. After months of negotiations with landowners, numerous cost calculations, and investments in ecological, social, and community impact studies, you are about to recommend building the new plant on the Lansing River site. Now, just 15 minutes before your big presentation to top management, you discover a possible mistake in your calculations: site-purchase costs appear to be $50 000 more than you calculated, nearly 10 percent over budget. You don’t have time to recheck all your figures, so you’re tempted to just go ahead with your recommendation and ignore any discrepancies. You’re worried that management won’t approve this purchase if you can’t present a clean, unqualified solution. You also know that many projects run over their original estimates, so you can probably work the extra cost into the budget later. On your way to the meeting room, you make your final decision. In a few paragraphs, explain the decision you made.

1.12 Communication Etiquette: Different Styles In group meetings, some of your colleagues have a habit of interrupting and arguing with the speaker, taking credit for ideas that aren’t theirs, and criticizing ideas they don’t agree with. You’re the newest person in the group and not sure if this is accepted behaviour in this company, but it concerns you both personally and professionally. Should you adopt their behaviour or stick with your own communication style, even though your quiet, respectful approach might limit your career potential? In two paragraphs, explain the pros and cons of both approaches.

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2

Communicating in Teams and Mastering Listening and Nonverbal Communication

LEARNING OBJECTIVES  After studying this chapter, you will be able to

1

Explain the advantages and disadvantages of working in teams, including the characteristics of high-performing teams

2

Explain how group dynamics can affect team effectiveness

3

Outline an effective approach to team communication

4

Explain the benefits of collaboration technologies

ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT

5

Describe the key steps needed to ensure productive meetings

6

Describe the listening process, and explain how good listeners use active listening to overcome barriers at each stage of the process

7

Clarify the importance of nonverbal communication, and list six categories of nonverbal expression

MyLab Business Communication Visit MyLab Business Communication to access a variety of online resources directly related to this chapter’s content.

ROYAL BANK OF CANADA Taking Charge of Business through Teamwork

Steve Smith/Getty Images

www.rbcroyalbank.com

Recognized as one of the best workplaces in Canada, Royal Bank helps its employees succeed in their jobs by encouraging teamwork and free-flowing communication throughout the organization.

Guided by the principle of “working together to succeed,” Royal Bank of Canada was recognized in 2016 as one of the best workplaces in Canada by the Great Place to Work® Institute and the Globe and Mail for the eighth year in a row. With 74 000 employees serving more than 16 million personal, business, and public sector clients, Royal Bank counts on teamwork to keep staff productive and satisfied. Team skills are essential for a job at Royal Bank. An entry-level sales and service representative position seeks “teamwork, cooperation skills, and listening skills.” A business analyst/developer must “effectively communicate and build rapport with team members, stakeholders, and business partners” and “facilitate small- to medium-sized group meetings.” A technical systems analyst “facilitates small- to large-group meetings for technical design, decision making, problem solving, and task implementation,” among other duties. Teamwork is an essential component of “flex-time” and “flex-place” arrangements enjoyed by some 30 percent of Royal Bank employees who work in the 1200+ Royal Bank branches across Canada or in one of 30 global offices. Flexible work is characterized by reduced or varied hours, job sharing, a modified workweek, or working off-site from home or a

34

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satellite office. For example, four employees at Royal Bank’s main Halifax branch coordinated schedules, giving each person a long weekend every two weeks. By learning each other’s duties and working the occasional longer day, someone is always available to serve clients. Digital tools play their part, with blogs, intranets, e-newsletters, and online meeting technologies easing the flow of communication. Executives believe teamwork helps employees perform better, have more energy, and maintain a better life outside their jobs when

they have more control over their time. A new hiring program for Canadian Forces personnel recognizes the special skills of reservists, including leadership, the ability to handle large projects, and working as a team member. Teams are an essential part of Royal Bank’s culture. If you were a Royal Bank manager, how would you develop effective teams? What would you need to know about getting team members to collaborate? And how could you help your team members improve their listening and meeting skills?1

Improving Your Performance in Teams Your job goal may not be to work at a bank or other financial institution, but chances are quite good that your career will involve working in teams and other group situations that will put your communication skills to the test. A team is a unit of two or more people who share a mission and the responsibility for working to achieve their goal.2 Companies can create formal teams, such as human resources or information technology (IT) teams, that are part of the organization’s structure, or they can establish informal teams that aren’t part of the formal organization but are created to solve particular problems, work on specific activities, or encourage employee participation. Teams are often at the core of participative management, the effort to involve employees in the company’s decision-making processes.

Team members have a shared mission and are collectively responsible for their work.

TYPES OF TEAMS The type, structure, and composition of individual teams vary within an organization. Some teams stay together for years; others may meet their goals in just a few days and then disband. Cross-functional teams bring together people from different areas—IT, sales, and manufacturing, for example—to create a new product or long-term organizational strategy, or to combine their talents on some other assignment. Sometimes as many as eight or more specialties may join a cross-functional team. Cross-functional teams tend to be more innovative when they develop a strong “superordinate identity,” meaning that the members identify more with the team and its purpose than with their respective functional areas.3 Self-managed or self-directed teams often involve cross-functional teams, with each team member bringing a skill set to be able to make informed decisions, complete certain tasks, or provide services to customers. Companies that implement self-managed teams confirm that their employees experience higher job satisfaction, take ownership of the project or tasks, and are more committed to its outcome. However, self-managed teams don’t necessarily work well in every situation or company. Success is very much dependent on whether the culture of the organization supports the decisions made by these teams. Quality assurance teams ensure that products and services meet prescribed standards. Typically composed of specialists in a single field, these groups may test automobiles to confirm that they run problem-free before leaving the factory floor or test food products to ensure that they meet safety standards. Task forces are informal teams that assemble to resolve specific issues and disband once their goal has been accomplished. Similar to cross-functional teams,

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Some popular types of informal teams are cross-functional teams, quality assurance teams, and task forces. These can operate in face-to-face settings or through virtual platforms.

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36 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Effective communication is essential to every aspect of team performance.

task forces often include representatives from many departments, so that those who have a stake in the outcome are allowed to provide input. One function of task forces is finding areas where savings can be made. For example, a hospital may bring together people from different departments, such as surgery, nursing, finance, and administration, to find ways to reduce supply costs.4 Committees are formal teams that usually have a long lifespan and can become a permanent part of the organizational structure. Committees typically deal with regularly recurring tasks. For example, an executive committee may meet monthly to plan strategy and review results, and a grievance committee may be formed as a permanent resource for handling employee complaints and concerns. Being a team member often requires taking on additional responsibility for communication: sharing information with team members, listening carefully to their input, and crafting messages that reflect the team’s collective ideas and opinions. Virtual teams allow members to connect from remote locations using a variety of meeting technologies (see “Using Meeting Technologies” later in the chapter). While technology helps make the “space” in which virtual meetings occur easier, the success rate of these teams is very much dependent on the type of membership (including size), leadership, and process.5

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF TEAMS 1

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain the advantages and disadvantages of working in teams, including the characteristics of high-performing teams.

Effective teams can pool knowledge, take advantage of diverse viewpoints, and increase acceptance of the solutions the team proposes.

Teams can play a vital role in helping an organization reach its goals, but they are not appropriate for every situation—and even when they are appropriate, companies need to weigh both the advantages and the disadvantages of a teambased approach. High performing teams can provide a number of advantages:6 • Increased information and knowledge. By pooling the resources of individuals both internal and external to the team, members have access to more information in the decision-making process. • Increased diversity of views. Team members bring a variety of perspectives, and given equal time and recognition, these differences can generate constructive dialogue and increase opportunities for creativity and innovation.7 • Increased acceptance of a solution. Those who participate in making a decision are more likely to support it and encourage others to accept it. Because they share in the final product, they are committed to seeing it succeed. This also contributes to job satisfaction when teams achieve their targets. • Higher performance levels. Working in teams can unleash new amounts of creativity and energy in workers who share a sense of purpose and mutual accountability. Effective teams can be better than top-performing individuals at solving complex problems, increasing productivity, and reducing costs. Working in tandem, small task forces can also achieve objectives faster.8 Although teamwork has many advantages, it also has a number of potential disadvantages. At their worst, teams are unproductive and frustrating, and they waste everyone’s time. Some may actually be counterproductive and arrive at poor decisions due to time pressures, different levels of commitment, or lack of mutual respect among members or lack of shared vision. Teams need to be aware of and work to counter the following disadvantages:

Teams need to address the negative impact of groupthink, hidden agendas, free riders, and excessive costs.

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• Groupthink. Like all social structures, business teams can generate tremendous pressures to conform to accepted norms of behaviour. Groupthink occurs when these peer pressures cause individual team members to withhold contrary or unpopular opinions. Group members may be influenced by a dominant personality who controls the discussion, or the group may be working under a short deadline so that participants cannot explore all

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CHAPTER 2  COMMUNICATING IN TEAMS AND MASTERING LISTENING AND NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION 37

David L. Moore/Alamy Stock Photo

the dimensions of their problem. The result can be decisions that are worse than ones the team members might have made individually. • Hidden agendas. Some team members may have a hidden agenda— private, counterproductive motives, such as a desire to take control of the group, to undermine someone else on the team, or to pursue a business goal that runs counter to the team’s mission. Others may withdraw or refuse to contribute altogether. Each person’s hidden agenda can detract from the team’s effectiveness. • Free riders. Free riders, or “social loafers,” are team members who don’t contribute their fair share to the group’s activities. Perhaps these members aren’t being held individually accountable for their work. Or perhaps they don’t believe they’ll receive adequate recognition for their individual efforts. The free-ride attitude can lead to certain tasks remaining unfulfilled and damage team performance and morale. • Cost. Coordinating group activities, aligning schedules, arranging meetings, and coordinating individual parts of a project can consume time, energy, and money. Furthermore, missed objectives can affect the availability of resources for future initiatives and confidence in similar decisions.

In many of Canada’s businesses, such as Royal Bank, employees voluntarily band together to raise funds for charitable causes. Are the dynamics of voluntary teams similar to those of managementimposed teams? How are they different?

CHARACTERISTICS OF HIGH PERFORMING TEAMS Whether team members are physically dispersed or sharing the same office space, the most effective teams have a common purpose with measurable milestones, trust in each other, and support for open dialogue to encourage creativity and reach consensus. They know how to hold members accountable, manage conflict to their advantage, and recover when challenges arise.9 They act responsibly toward their colleagues, their organization, and society. In addition, group size and makeup (e.g., skill set, background, etc.), the various roles that team members play, their engagement with and commitment to the team, and leadership styles allow a team to focus on their work and not get bogged down in conflict or waste time and resources pursuing unclear goals. Research has shown that two of the most common reasons for underperforming teams are lack of trust and poor communication between members. A lack of trust can result from team members being suspicious of one another’s motives or an unwillingness to contribute in a positive way.10 While the achievement of agreed-upon milestones is important, attention to team members’ “socioemotional” needs can contribute significantly to team performance levels. Facilitation of equal participation, recognition of member contributions, and the availability of support and training have been shown to be a significant predictor of a team’s potential for success.11

GROUP DYNAMICS The interactions and processes that take place between the members of a team are called group dynamics. Some teams are more effective than others simply because the dynamics of the group facilitate member input and the resolution of differences. To keep the process moving forward, productive teams also tend to develop rules that are conducive to business. Some of these rules are formal, such as reporting hierarchies. Others are unstated, informal standards that become group norms or “ways of being.” Group dynamics are affected by several factors: the roles that team members assume, the current phase of team development, the team’s success in resolving conflict, the team’s success in overcoming resistance, and the type of leadership and organizational support the team receives. ASSUMING TEAM ROLES  Members of a team can play various roles, which fall into three categories (see Table 2–1). Members who assume self-oriented roles

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2

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain how group dynamics can affect team effectiveness.

Group dynamics are the interactions and processes that take place in a team.

Each member of a group plays a role that affects the outcome of the group’s activities.

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38 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Table 2–1

Team Roles People Play

Dysfunctional

Functional

Self-Oriented Roles

Team-Maintenance Roles

Task-Facilitating Roles

Controlling: Dominating others by exhibiting superiority or authority

Encouraging: Drawing out other members by showing verbal and nonverbal support, praise, or agreement

Initiating: Getting the team started on a line of inquiry

Withdrawing: Retiring from the team either by becoming silent or by refusing to deal with a particular aspect of the team’s work

Harmonizing: Reconciling differences among team members through mediation or by using humour to relieve tension

Information giving or seeking: Offering (or seeking) information relevant to questions facing the team, including from external sources

Attention seeking: Calling attention to oneself and demanding recognition from others

Compromising: Offering to yield on a point in the interest of reaching a mutually acceptable decision

Coordinating: Showing relationships among ideas, clarifying issues, and summarizing what the team has done

Diverting: Focusing the team’s discussion on topics of interest to the individual rather than on those relevant to the task

Procedure setting: Suggesting decisionmaking procedures or ground rules that will move the team toward a goal

Teams composed of multiple superstars may not perform as well as one might expect because highperforming individuals can have trouble putting the team’s needs ahead of their own.

are motivated mainly to fulfill personal needs, so they tend to be less productive than other members. The most effective teams encourage their members to address these types of behaviours early on and facilitate an environment in which mutual respect and accountability are given high importance. Surprisingly, “dream teams” composed of multiple superstars often don’t perform as well as one might expect because high-performing individuals can have trouble putting the team’s needs ahead of their own.12 In addition, highly skilled and experienced people with difficult personalities might not contribute as they could for the simple reason that other team members may avoid interacting with them.13 Far more likely to contribute to team goals are those members who assume team-maintenance roles to help everyone work well together, and those who assume task-facilitating roles to help the team reach its goals.14 Roles can also change over time. For instance, in a self-directed team with no formal leader, someone may assume a task-oriented leadership role early in the team’s evolution. If this person doesn’t prove to be a capable leader, someone else may emerge as a leader as the group searches for more effective direction.15

Teams typically evolve through five phases: a common model of this growth includes orientation, conflict, brainstorming, emergence, and reinforcement.

ALLOWING FOR TEAM EVOLUTION Teams typically evolve through a number of phases on their way to becoming productive (see Figure 2–1). A variety of models have been proposed to describe the evolution toward becoming a productive team. The following model identifies the phases a problem-solving team goes through as it evolves:16 1. Orientation. Team members socialize, establish their roles, and begin to define their task or purpose. Team-building exercises and activities can help teams

1. Orientation Team members get to know each other and establish roles.

2. Conflict Different opinions and perspectives begin to emerge.

3. Brainstorming Team members explore their options and evaluate alternatives.

4. Emergence The team reaches a consensus on the chosen decision.

5. Reinforcement The team re-establishes harmony and makes plans to put the decision into action.

Figure 2–1  Phases of Group Development Adapted from B. Aubrey Fisher, Small Group Decision Making: Communication and the Group Process, 2nd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980), 145–149; Robbins and De Cenzo, Fundamentals of Management, 334–335; Richard L. Daft, Management, 6th ed. (Cincinnati: Thomson South-Western, 2003), 602–603.

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CHAPTER 2  COMMUNICATING IN TEAMS AND MASTERING LISTENING AND NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION 39

break down barriers and help members become acquainted and build trust. Initial ground rules are established.17 For geographically dispersed virtual teams, creating a “team operating agreement” that sets expectations for online meetings, communication processes, and decision making can help address the disadvantages of distance.18 2. Conflict. Team members begin to discuss their positions and become more assertive in establishing their roles. If you and the other members have been carefully selected to represent a variety of viewpoints and expertise, disagreements are a natural part of this phase. Conflict, when properly managed, can be a positive force because it helps the group to clarify both the ideas and the processes for reaching their decisions. Conflict also works against the danger of groupthink.19 3. Brainstorming. Team members air all the options and discuss the pros and cons fully. At the end of this phase, members begin to settle on a single solution to the problem. It’s important to avoid judging ideas during brainstorming, so people feel free to contribute all their thoughts, rather than limiting them to ones they believe will win approval. Note that while group brainstorming remains a highly popular activity in today’s companies, it may not always be the most productive way to generate new ideas. Some research indicates that having people brainstorm individually and then bring their ideas to a group meeting is more successful.20 4. Emergence. Consensus is reached when the team finds a solution that is acceptable enough for all members to support (even if they have reservations). Consensus happens only after all members have had an opportunity to communicate their positions and feel that they have been listened to. 5. Reinforcement. The team clarifies and summarizes the agreed-upon solution. Members receive their assignments for carrying out the group’s decision, and they make arrangements for following up on those assignments. The development of a contingency plan is important to save time and energy, especially when conditions on which the team operates change.

RESOLVING CONFLICT Conflict is a natural part of any team experience, and can arise for any number of reasons. Team members may believe that they need to compete for money, information, or other resources. Or members may disagree about who is responsible for a specific task; this disagreement is usually the result of poorly defined responsibilities and job boundaries. Various members can also bring ideas that are equally good but incompatible, such as two different

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Christopher Bissell/The Image Bank/Getty Images

You may also hear the process defined as forming, storming, norming, and performing, the phases identified by researcher Bruce Tuckman when he proposed one of the earliest models of group development.21 Additions to the model have been advocated, outlining the importance of a transition or “lessons learned” phase. This is sometimes referred to as adjourning. Here, team members are able to capture information on what worked well and what would need to be improved upon in future situations. They also acknowledge and celebrate their accomplishments. Note that these phases are a general framework for team development. Some teams may move forward and backward through several stages before they become productive, and other teams may be productive right away, even while some or all members are in a state of conflict.22

Conflict is an inevitable part of working in teams, but an effective team knows how to keep destructive conflict from distracting the team from its objectives. How have you managed team conflict when preparing assignments with other students? In your opinion, what is the most important factor to lessen conflict?

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40 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Conflict in teams can be either constructive or destructive.

Different leadership styles can escalate or help to effectively manage conflicts within a team.

solutions to a given problem. Also, poor communication can lead to misunderstandings about other team members, and intentionally withholding information can undermine trust. Basic differences in values, attitudes, and personalities may lead to arguments. Power struggles may result when one member questions the authority of another or when people or teams with limited authority attempt to increase their power or exert more influence. Conflict can also arise because individuals or teams are pursuing different goals.23 Conflict can be both constructive and destructive to a team’s effectiveness. Conflict is constructive if it forces important issues into the open, increases the involvement of team members, and generates creative ideas for the solution to a problem. Constructive conflict can prod teams to higher performance, in fact. Teamwork isn’t necessarily about happiness and harmony; even teams that have some interpersonal friction can excel with effective leadership and team players committed to strong results. As teamwork experts Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer put it, “Virtuoso teams are not about getting polite results.”24 In contrast, conflict is destructive if it diverts energy from more important issues, destroys morale, or polarizes or divides the team.25 Destructive conflict can lead to win–lose or lose–lose outcomes, in which one or both sides lose, to the detriment of the entire team. If you approach conflict with the idea that both sides can satisfy their goals to at least some extent (a win–win strategy), no one loses. However, for the win–win strategy to work, everybody must believe that (1) it’s possible to find a solution that both parties can accept, (2) cooperation is better for the organization than competition, (3) the other party can be trusted, and (4) greater power or status doesn’t entitle one party to impose a solution. Often members will take on a leadership role and help the team navigate the resolution process. Here are seven measures that can help team members successfully resolve conflict: 1. Proaction. Deal with minor conflict before it becomes major conflict. 2. Communication. Get those directly involved in the conflict to participate in resolving it. Provide support or training if they are not skilled in effective listening techniques. 3. Openness. Get feelings out in the open before dealing with the main issues. 4. Research. Seek factual reasons for the problem before seeking solutions. 5. Flexibility. Don’t let anyone lock into a position before considering other solutions. 6. Fair play. Don’t let anyone avoid a fair solution by hiding behind the rules. 7. Alliance. Get opponents to fight together for a common goal instead of against each other.

When you encounter resistance or hostility, maintain your composure and address the other person’s emotional needs.

OVERCOMING RESISTANCE One particular type of conflict that can affect team progress is resistance to change. Sometimes this resistance is clearly irrational, such as when people resist any kind of change, whether it makes sense or not. Sometimes, however, resistance is perfectly logical. A change may require someone to relinquish authority or give up comfortable ways of doing things. If someone is resisting change, you can be persuasive with calm, reasonable communication: • Express understanding. Most people are ashamed of reacting emotionally in business situations. Show that you sympathize. You might say, “I can understand that this change might be difficult, and if I were in your position, I might be reluctant myself.” Help the other person relax and talk about his or her anxiety, so you have a chance to offer reassurance.26 • Make people aware of their resistance. When people are noncommittal and silent, they may be tuning you out without even knowing why. Continuing with your argument is futile. Deal directly with the resistance without accusing. You might say, “You seem to have reservations about this idea.

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Have I made some faulty assumptions?” Such questions force people to face and define their resistance.27 • Evaluate others’ objections fairly. Use active listening to focus on what the other person is expressing, both in words and in feelings. Get the person to open up, so that you can understand the basis for the resistance. The objections of others may raise legitimate points or problems that you’ll want to address.28 • Hold your arguments until the other person is ready for them. Getting your point across depends as much on the other person’s frame of mind as it does on your arguments. You can’t assume that a strong argument will speak for itself. By becoming more audience centred, you will learn to address the other person’s emotional needs first.

Active listening lets the speaker feel that others are interested in what he or she has to say and helps to bring out issues that may otherwise be hidden.

Collaborating on Communication Efforts You should expect to collaborate on a wide variety of research, writing, design, and presentation projects in your career. When teams collaborate, the collective energy and expertise of the various members can lead to results that transcend what each individual could do otherwise.29 However, collaborating on team messages requires special effort; the following section offers a number of helpful guidelines.

GUIDELINES FOR COLLABORATIVE WRITING In any collaborative effort, it’s important to recognize that team members coming from different backgrounds may have different work habits or priorities: a technical expert may focus on accuracy and scientific standards; an editor may be more concerned about organization and coherence; and a manager may focus on schedules, cost, and corporate goals. In addition, team members will differ in writing styles, work habits, and personality traits—factors that can complicate the creative nature of communication. To collaborate effectively, everyone involved must be flexible and open to other opinions, focusing on team objectives rather than on individual priorities.30 Successful writers know that most ideas can be expressed in many ways, so they avoid the “my way is best” attitude. The following guidelines will help you collaborate more successfully on team messages:31

3

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Outline an effective approach to team communication.

Successful collaboration requires a number of steps, from selecting the right partners and agreeing on project goals to establishing clear processes and avoiding writing as a group.

• Select collaborators carefully. Whenever possible, choose a combination of people who have the experience, information, and talent needed for each project. Group size is also important to ensure an efficient turnaround. • Agree on project goals before you start. Starting without a clear idea of where you hope to finish inevitably leads to frustration and wasted time. • Give your team time to bond before diving in. If people haven’t had the opportunity to work together before, make sure they can get to know each other before being asked to collaborate. Provide an opportunity for members to build trust through a team-building exercise or social activity. • Clarify individual responsibilities. Because members will depend on each other, make sure individual responsibilities are clear. • Establish clear processes. Make sure everyone knows how the work will be done, including checkpoints and decisions made along the way. Agree to a process for handling conflicts. • Avoid writing as a group. The actual composition is the only part of developing team messages that usually does not benefit from group participation. Group writing is often a slow, painful process that delivers bland results. Plan, research, and outline together, but assign the actual writing to one person. If you must divide and share the writing for scheduling reasons, try to have one person do a final review pass to ensure a consistent style.

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42 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

“Planning is essential to almost any task a team performs. Your knowledge of another team member’s strengths and weaknesses . . . allows the team to make adjustments based on past performance and the current situation.”

Stephen M. Powell, president, Healthcare Team Training LLC

• Make sure tools and techniques are ready and compatible across the team. Even minor details such as different versions of software can delay projects. If you plan to use technology for sharing or presenting materials, test the system before work begins. • Follow up along the way. Don’t assume everything is working just because you don’t hear anything negative. Ask team members how they think the project is going and then fix any problems quickly so they don’t derail the team’s efforts.

TECHNOLOGIES FOR COLLABORATIVE WRITING 4

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain the benefits of collaboration technologies.

The benefits of wikis include simple operation and the ability to post new or revised material instantly, without a formal review process.

A variety of collaboration tools exist to help teams write together. Among the simpler tools are group review and commenting features in word processors and the Adobe Acrobat electronic document system (PDF files) and web-based document systems such as Google Docs. More complex solutions include content management systems that organize and control the content for many websites (particularly larger corporate sites). A wiki (from the Hawaiian word for quick) is a website that allows anyone with access to add new material and edit existing material. Figure 2–2 shows ZOHO Projects, a collaborative project management app that helps team members work together in real time, with documents, decisions, messages, and other vital project elements accessible to everyone. The key benefits of wikis include simple operation—writers don’t need to know any of the techniques normally required to create web content—and the freedom to post new or revised material without prior approval. This approach is quite different from a content management system, in which both the organization of the website and the workflow (the rules for creating, editing, reviewing, and approving content) are tightly controlled.32 A content management system is a useful way to maintain consistent presentation on a company’s primary public website, whereas wikis allow teams to collaborate with speed and flexibility. The system tracks action items so that everyone knows who is responsible for which tasks and the status of all open tasks.

Issues are communicated to all stakeholders so that steps can be taken to mitigate problems.

Teams can use a variety of analysis, planning, and decision-making tools, including Time Lines, Billing,Upcoming Milestones, Bugs, Forums and Chat to exchange information real time.

Figure 2–2  ZOHO Projects: An Online Collaborative App Courtesy of ZOHO.

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CHAPTER 2  COMMUNICATING IN TEAMS AND MASTERING LISTENING AND NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION 43

Team members can exchange information in real time regarding project changes, action items, or any other decisions or questions.

Various aspects of project deliverables can be tracked.

Figure 2–3  An Enterprise Shared Workspace Use with the permission of Samepage Labs Inc.

Enterprise wiki systems extend the wiki concept with additional features for business use that ensure information quality and confidentiality without losing the speed and flexibility of a wiki. For instance, access control lets a team leader identify who is allowed to read and modify the wiki. Change monitoring alerts team members when significant changes or additions are made. And rollback allows a team to “travel back in time” to see all previous versions of pages.33 Groupware is a general term for computer-based systems that let people communicate, share files, review previous message threads, work on documents simultaneously, and connect using social networking tools. These systems help companies capture and share knowledge from multiple experts, bringing greater insights to bear on tough challenges.34 Shared workspaces are online “virtual offices” that give everyone on a team access to the same set of resources and information: databases, calendars, project plans, pertinent instant messaging (IM) and email exchanges, shared reference materials, and team-created documents. Figure 2–3 shows SamePage, an enterprise shared workspace that facilitates collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing among employees. Cloud computing has significantly changed the way information can be shared and retrieved. Team members, whether geographically dispersed or in the next cubicle, can collaborate using online software applications and digital storage space.

SOCIAL NETWORKS AND VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES We have seen that social media and the Web 2.0 approach are revolutionizing business communication. Within that context, social networking technologies are redefining teamwork and team communication by helping erase the constraints of geographic and organization boundaries. In addition to enabling and enhancing teamwork, social networks have numerous other business applications and benefits; see Table 7–1 for more information. The two fundamental elements of any social networking technology are profiles (the information stored about each member of the network) and connections (mechanisms for finding and communicating with other members).35 If you have a Facebook account, you have a basic idea of how social networks function. Thousands of companies now use Facebook, but you may also encounter networks created specifically for business use, the most significant being LinkedIn (www. linkedin.com). Others are Ryze (www.ryze.com) and XING (www.xing.com). Some companies use social networking technologies to form virtual communities or communities of practice that link employees with similar professional interests throughout the company and sometimes with customers and suppliers as

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Social networking technologies are becoming vital communication links in many companies.

A community of practice links professionals with similar job interests; a key benefit is accumulating longterm organizational knowledge.

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44 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

well. The huge advantage that social networking brings to these team efforts is in identifying the best people to collaborate on each problem or project, no matter where they are around the world or what their official roles are in the organization. Such communities are similar to teams in many respects, but one major difference is in the responsibility for accumulating organizational knowledge over the long term. For example, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer has a number of permanent product safety communities that provide specialized advice on drug safety issues to researchers across the company.36 Social networking can also help a company maintain a sense of community even as it grows beyond the size that normally permits a lot of daily interaction. At the online retailer Zappos, fostering a supportive work environment is the company’s top priority. To encourage the sense of community among its expanding workforce, Zappos uses social networking tools to track employee connections and encourage workers to reach out and build relationships.37

Making Your Meetings More Productive 5

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe the key steps needed to ensure productive meetings.

Much of the communication you’ll participate in will take place in meetings.

Much of your workplace communication will occur during in-person or online meetings, so to a large degree, your ability to contribute to the company—and to be recognized for your contributions—will depend on your meeting skills. Well-run meetings can help companies solve problems, develop ideas, and identify opportunities. Meetings can also be a great way to promote team building through the experience of social interaction.38 As useful as meetings can be, though, they can be a waste of time if they aren’t planned and managed well. You can help ensure productive meetings by preparing carefully, conducting meetings efficiently, and using meeting technologies wisely. A checklist—Improving Face-to-Face and Virtual Meeting Productivity—is included later in the chapter.

PREPARING FOR MEETINGS The first step in preparing for a meeting is to make sure the meeting is really necessary. Meetings can consume hundreds or thousands of dollars of productive time while taking people away from other work, so don’t hold a meeting if some other form of communication (such as a blog post) can serve the purpose as effectively.39 If a meeting is truly necessary, proceed with these four planning tasks: To ensure a successful meeting, decide on your purpose ahead of time, select the right participants, choose the time and facility carefully, and set a clear agenda.

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1. Clarify your purpose. Although many meetings combine purposes, most focus on one of two types. Informational meetings involve sharing information and perhaps coordinating action. Decision-making meetings involve persuasion, analysis, and problem solving. Whatever your purpose, make sure it is clear and clearly communicated to all participants. 2. Select participants for the meeting. With a clear purpose in mind, it’s easier to identify the right participants. If the session is purely informational and one person will do most of the talking, you can invite a large group. For problemsolving and decision-making meetings, invite only those people who are in a direct position to help the meeting reach its objective. The more participants, the more comments and confusion you’re likely to get and the longer the meeting will take. 3. Choose the venue and time. Online or virtual meetings are often the best way and sometimes the only way to connect people in multiple locations or to reach large audiences. For onsite meetings, review the facility and the seating arrangements. Are rows of chairs suitable, or do you need a conference table or some other arrangement? Pay attention to room temperature, lighting,

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CHAPTER 2  COMMUNICATING IN TEAMS AND MASTERING LISTENING AND NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION 45

Chris Wattie/REUTERS

ventilation, acoustics, and refreshments; these details can make or break a meeting. If you have control over the timing, morning meetings are often more productive because people are generally more alert and not yet engaged with the work of the day. 4. Set the agenda. The success of any meeting depends on the preparation of the participants. People who will be presenting information need to know what is expected of them; nonpresenters need to know what will be presented so they can prepare questions; and everyone needs to know how long the meeting will last. In addition, the agenda helps focus the meeting and is an important tool for guiding the progress of the meeting (see Figure 2–4). A productive agenda answers key questions:

An agenda, committee reports, and debate are all part of Canadian parliamentary procedure. Why is an established order important to both political and business meetings?

• What do we need to do in this meeting to accomplish our goals? • What additional action should be taken prior to coming to the meeting (e.g., information to be gathered or material to be read)? • What issues will be of greatest importance to all participants? • What information must be available in order to discuss these issues?40

LEADING AND PARTICIPATING IN MEETINGS Everyone in a meeting shares the responsibility for making the meeting productive. If you’re the designated leader of a meeting, however, you have an extra degree of responsibility and accountability. The following guidelines will help leaders and participants contribute to more effective meetings: • Keep the discussion on track. A good meeting draws out the best ideas and information the group has to offer. Good leaders encourage participants to share. Experience will help you recognize when to push the group forward and when to step back and let people talk. If the meeting lags, ask questions to encourage participation. Conversely, there will be times when you have no choice but to cut off discussion in order to stay on schedule. • Follow agreed-upon rules. Business meetings run the range from informal to extremely formal, complete with detailed rules for speaking, proposing new items to discuss, voting on proposals, using technology (e.g., phones), and so on. The larger the meeting, the more formal you’ll need to be to maintain order. Formal meetings use parliamentary procedure, a time-tested method for planning and running effective meetings. The best-known guide to this procedure is Robert’s Rules of Order. Check out the online “Survival Tips on Robert’s Rules of Order” at www.roberts-rules.com/index.html to help you understand and use this system. • Encourage participation. On occasion, some participants will be too quiet and others too talkative. The quiet participants might be shy; they might be expressing disagreement or resistance; or they might be answering email or texting. Draw them out by asking for their input on issues that particularly pertain to them. For the overly talkative, simply say that time is limited and others need to be heard from. • Participate actively. If you’re a meeting participant, contribute to both the subject of the meeting and the smooth interaction of the group. Speak up if you have something useful to say, but don’t monopolize the discussion or talk simply to bring attention to yourself.

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Everyone shares the responsibility for successful meetings.

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46 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

AGENDA PLANNING COMMITTEE MEETING

Provides background information on the meeting, such as the main purpose, date, time, and location.

Monday, October 28, 2017 10:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M. Executive Conference Room

I. Call to Order II. Roll Call III. Approval of Agenda IV. Approval of Minutes from Previous Meeting V. Chairperson’s Report on Site Selection Progress VI. Subcommittee Reports a. New Markets

Person Alan

Proposed Time 5 minutes

b. New Products

Jennifer

5 minutes

c. Finance

Craig

5 minutes

Terry

10 minutes

a. Carson and Canfield Data on New Product Sales

Sarah

10 minutes

b. Restructuring of Product Territories Due to New Product Introductions

Edith

10 minutes

VII. Old Business—Pricing Policy for New Products

Shows the order in which topics will be covered and allocates time for report-outs.

VIII. New Business

IX. Announcements X. Adjournment

Oct. 28, 2017

Centre,

Action items are assigned. These may be reviewed for achievement or progress at the next meeting.

Figure 2–4  Typical Meeting Agendas

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• Close effectively. At the meeting’s conclusion, verify that the objectives have been met, and arrange for follow-up work as needed. Summarize either the general conclusion of the discussion or the actions to be taken. Make sure all participants have a chance to clear up any misunderstandings. If appropriate, assign roles and issue an action plan to be reviewed during the next meeting. To review the tasks that contribute to productive meetings, refer to “Checklist: Improving Face-to-Face and Virtual Meeting Productivity.” For formal meetings, it’s good practice to appoint one person to record the minutes, a summary of the important information presented and the decisions made during a meeting. In smaller or informal meetings, attendees often make their own notes on their copies of the agenda. In either case, a clear record of the decisions made and the people responsible for follow-up action is essential. If your company doesn’t have a specific format for minutes, follow the generic format shown in Figure 2–5. The specific format of the minutes is less important than making sure you record all the key information, particularly regarding responsibilities that were assigned during the meeting. Key elements include a list of those present and a list of those who were invited but didn’t attend, followed by the times the meeting started and ended, all major decisions reached at the meeting, all assignments of tasks to meeting participants, and all subjects that

6/13/2017

The post title and header clearly indicate the meeting to which these minutes pertain.

June 12, 2017 June 2017 S 1 8 15 22 29

M 2 9 16 23 30

T 3 10 17 24

W 4 11 18 25

T 5 12 19 26

F 6 13 20 27

S 7 14 21 28

The “Present” and “Absent” lists verify who did and did not attend.

The body summarizes outcomes, not entire discussions:

2017 2017 2017

Reminds everyone of what took place Shows who is responsible for which follow-up tasks Summarizes all decisions and suggestions made

2017 2017 2017 2016

Figure 2–5  Typical Minutes of a Meeting

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48 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

were deferred to a later meeting. In addition, the minutes objectively summarize important discussions, noting the names of those who contributed major points. Outlines, subheadings, and lists help organize the minutes, and additional documentation (such as tables or charts submitted by meeting participants) are noted in the minutes and attached. Whichever method you use, make sure that responsibilities are clear, so all issues raised at the meeting will be addressed. Many companies today use intranets and blog postings to distribute meeting minutes.

✓ Checklist

Improving Face-to-Face and Virtual Meeting Productivity

A. Prepare. • Determine the meeting’s objectives. • Work out an agenda that will achieve your objectives. • Select participants. • Determine the time and location, and reserve a room. • If you are organizing a virtual meeting, use Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to avoid confusion, and decide what type of technology you will use. Ensure that all participants have access to and know how to use the software. • Arrange for light refreshments, if appropriate. • Determine whether the lighting, ventilation, acoustics, and temperature of the room are adequate. • Determine seating needs: chairs only or table and chairs. • For virtual meetings, decide on the language to be used, and communicate ground rules for handling allocation of speaking time, interruptions, and multitasking. B. Conduct. • Begin and end the meeting on time. Ask participants to log in early for online meetings, and allow

• • •



for some “small talk.” This helps participants make connections and establish bonds. Control the meeting by following the announced agenda. Assign someone to capture the minutes, if necessary. Encourage full participation, and either confront or ignore those who seem to be working at crosspurposes with the group. Poll participants for agreement or questions. Sum up decisions, actions, and recommendations as you move through the agenda, and restate main points at the end. This is especially important for virtual meetings, where participants can lose focus and attention.

C. Follow Up. • Distribute the meeting’s notes or minutes on a timely basis. • Take the agreed-upon follow-up action. • If appropriate, schedule the next meeting’s date, time and location, and set actions that need to be completed by then.

USING MEETING TECHNOLOGIES Companies continue to look for innovative ways to promote communication and collaboration while reducing the cost and hassle of meetings.

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A growing array of technologies enables professionals to enhance or even replace traditional meetings. Replacing in-person meetings with long-distance, virtual interaction can dramatically reduce costs and resource usage, reduce wear and tear on employees, and give teams access to a wider pool of expertise. Learn how to use these tools effectively and you’ll become a more effective contributor and leader in all your meetings. Meeting technologies have helped spur the emergence of virtual teams, whose members work in different locations and interact electronically through virtual meetings. IM and teleconferencing are the simplest forms of virtual meetings. Videoconferencing lets participants see and hear each other, demonstrate products, and transmit other visual information. Telepresence technologies (see Figure 2–6) enable realistic conferences in which participants thousands of kilometres apart almost seem to be in the same room.41 The ability to convey nonverbal subtleties such as facial expressions and hand gestures makes these systems particularly good for negotiations, collaborative problem solving, and other complex discussions.42

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The virtual environment is made up of offices, conference rooms, and other spaces where people can interact through IM chat, voice conferencing, and document sharing.

Caroline von Tuempling/Iconica/Getty Images

The most sophisticated web-based meeting systems combine the best of real-time communication, shared workspaces, and videoconferencing with other tools, such as virtual whiteboards, that let teams collaborate in real time. Such systems are used for everything from spontaneous discussions among small groups to carefully planned, formal events such as customer training seminars or press conferences.43 Technology continues to create intriguing opportunities for online interaction. For example, one of the newest virtual tools is online brainstorming, in which a company can conduct “idea campaigns” to generate new ideas from people across the organization. These ses- What are the differences between face-to-face meetings and online meetings? sions range from small team meetings to huge Can online always replace face-to-face? events such as IBM’s giant InnovationJam, in which 100 000 IBM employees, family members, and customers from 160 countries were invited to brainstorm online for three days.44 Companies are also using virtual meetings and other communication activities in virtual worlds that include realistic-looking environments that represent offices and conference rooms. The Team Space system from Sococo (see Figure 2–6) mimics the layout of an office building, allowing users to click into offices, conference rooms, and other spaces to initiate virtual meetings and presentations, participate in phone and IM conferences, and share documents. In the otherworldly environment of Second Life (www.secondlife.com), professionals can create online avatars to represent themselves in meetings, training sessions, sales presentations, and even casual conversations with customers they happen to bump into.

Colleagues are available at the click of a mouse.

Informal meeting spaces can also be created, such as the “courtyard” shown here.

Employees can phone a colleague by clicking on the phone icon on his or her desk. Figure 2–6   Virtual Meetings Courtesy Sococo.

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50 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Conducting successful telephone or online meetings requires extra planning and more diligence during the meeting.

Conducting successful meetings over the phone or online requires extra planning before the meeting and more diligence during the meeting. Because virtual meetings offer less visual contact and nonverbal communication than in-person meetings, leaders need to make sure everyone stays engaged and has the opportunity to contribute. Paying attention during online meetings takes greater effort as well. Participants need to stay committed to the meeting and resist the temptation to work on unrelated tasks.45

Improving Your Listening Skills Listening is one of the most important skills in the workplace.

Your long-term career prospects are closely tied to your ability and willingness to listen. Effective listening strengthens organizational relationships, alerts an organization to opportunities for innovation, and allows an organization to be aware of problems that can develop into serious image and reputation issues.46 Some 80 percent of top executives say that listening is the most important skill needed to get things done in the workplace.47 At Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, listening skills are considered a core competency for employees.48 Throughout your own career, effective listening will give you a competitive edge, enhancing your performance and thus the influence you have within your company.

UNDERSTANDING THE LISTENING PROCESS 6

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe the listening process, and explain how good listeners use active listening to overcome barriers at each stage of the process.

Listening involves five steps: receiving, decoding, remembering, evaluating, and responding.

Listening is a far more complex process than most people think, and most of us aren’t very good at it. People listen at or below a 25 percent efficiency rate, remember only about half of what’s said during a 10-minute conversation, and forget half of that within 48 hours.49 Furthermore, when questioned about material we’ve just heard, we’re likely to get the facts mixed up.50 Why is such a seemingly simple activity so difficult? The reason is that listening is not a simple process. To listen effectively, you need to successfully complete five separate steps:51 1. Receiving. You start by physically hearing the message and acknowledging it. Physical reception can be blocked by noise, impaired hearing, or inattention. Some experts also include nonverbal messages as part of this stage, since these factors influence the listening process as well. 2. Decoding. Your next step is to assign meaning to sounds, which you do according to your own values, beliefs, ideas, expectations, roles, needs, and personal history. 3. Remembering. Before you can act on the information, you need to store it for future processing. Incoming messages must first be captured in short-term memory, and then they are transferred to long-term memory for more permanent storage. 4. Evaluating. With the speaker’s message captured, your next step is to evaluate it by applying critical thinking skills. Separate fact from opinion and evaluate the quality of the evidence. You should ask, Is the evidence credible? Why is it credible? 5. Responding. After you’ve evaluated the speaker’s message, you react. If you’re communicating one on one or in a small group, the initial response generally takes the form of verbal feedback. If you’re one of many in an audience, your initial response may take the form of applause, laughter, or silence. Later on, you may act on what you have heard.

Good listeners actively overcome the barriers to successful listening.

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If any one of these steps breaks down, the listening process becomes less effective or even fails entirely. As both a sender and a receiver, you can reduce the failure rate by recognizing and overcoming a variety of physical and mental barriers to effective listening.

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CHAPTER 2  COMMUNICATING IN TEAMS AND MASTERING LISTENING AND NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION 51

Table 2–2

Recognizing Various Types of Listening52

Type of Listening

Emphasis Is On…

Do’s

Don’ts

Content Listening: Primary goal is to understand and retain the speaker’s message.

Information gathering and understanding

• Ask questions to clarify the material and probe for details.

Retention of information

• Focus on the information and look for the main ideas and patterns.

• Evaluate the speaker’s style or presentation at this point. It does not matter whether you agree or disagree, only that you understand.

• Paraphrase what the speaker says Critical Listening: Primary goal is to understand and evaluate the meaning of the speaker’s message on several levels.

Empathic Listening: Primary goal is to understand the speaker’s feelings, needs, and wants to help the speaker vent the emotions that prevent a calm, clear-headed approach.

Evaluating the logic of the argument, strength of the evidence, and validity of the conclusion

• Analyze the implications of the message for you and your organization, and the speaker’s intentions and motives. • Ask questions to explore different points of view and determine credibility.

Appreciating the speaker’s viewpoint, regardless of whether you share that perspective

• Let the speaker know that you appreciate his or her feelings and understand the situation. • Once you establish this connection, help the speaker move on to search for a solution.

• Overlook the reason for omitting certain points or information. • Be misled by bias or the package in which the information is presented. • Confuse opinions for facts. • Offer advice unless the person specifically asks for it. • Judge the speaker’s feelings or communicate that he or she should not feel a particular emotion.

RECOGNIZING AND UNDERSTANDING ACTIVE LISTENING

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Steve Gorton/Juice Images/Dorling Kindersley Limited

Understanding the nature of your listening during a conversation is the first To be a good listener, adapt the way step toward improving your listening skills. People listen in a variety of ways, you listen to suit the situation. and although how they listen is often an unconscious choice, it influences both what they hear and the meaning they extract. Refer to the major types of listening shown in Table 2–2, then reflect on your own inclination as a listener and consider how using active listening techniques could make your listening more effective. Active listening involves seeking to understand and interpret the real meaning behind someone’s message. This means being nonjudgmental and, if possible, not interrupting the speaker. The idea is to try to consider the communication from the perspective of the speaker without interjecting one’s own opinion. The listener has to focus completely on what the speaker is saying and avoid any distractions. Facial expressions, posture, and positioning of the arms should indicate that the listener is interested. Although the listener may not entirely agree with what the speaker is saying, he or she can ask clarifying questions or paraphrase the message to reduce the possibility of misunderstandings. When it comes time to respond, the listener should avoid attacking the speaker or criticizing him or her. The listener’s comments and body language should be open, treating the other person in the same manner he or she would like to be treated. In this way, active listening helps reduce potentially stressful and contentious situations, strengthens rapport and builds stronger relationships, and opens communication What type of listening is occurring in this picture? What listening skills between parties. must the listener apply in this situation?

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52 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE LISTENING Your mind can process information much faster than most speakers talk.

Table 2–3

Good listeners look for ways to overcome potential barriers throughout the listening process (see Table 2–3). You are unlikely to have control over some barriers to physical reception, such as conference room acoustics, poor cellphone reception, or background music. However, you can certainly control other barriers, such as interrupting speakers or creating distractions that make it hard for others to pay attention. If you have questions for a speaker, wait until he or she has finished speaking. And don’t think that you’re not interrupting just because you’re not talking. Texting, checking your watch, making eye contact with someone over the speaker’s shoulder—these are just a few of the many nonverbal behaviours that can interrupt a speaker and hinder listening for everyone. Selective listening is one of the most common barriers to effective listening. If your mind wanders, you often stay tuned out until you hear a word or phrase that gets your attention back. But by that time, you’re unable to recall what the speaker actually said; instead, you remember what you think the speaker probably said.53 One reason listeners’ minds tend to wander is that people think faster than they speak. Most people speak at about 120 to 150 words per minute, but listeners can process audio information at up to 500 words per minute or more.54 Consequently, your brain has a lot of free time whenever you’re listening, and if left unsupervised, it will find a thousand other things to think about. Rather than listening part time, make a conscious effort to focus on the speaker and use the extra time to analyze what you hear, prepare questions you might need to ask, and engage in other relevant thinking. Overcoming such interpretation barriers can be difficult because you might not even be aware of them. Selective perception leads listeners to mould a message to fit their own conceptual frameworks. Listeners sometimes prejudge; that is, they make up their minds before fully hearing the speaker’s message, or they engage in defensive listening—protecting their self-image by tuning out anything that doesn’t confirm their view of themselves. Even when your intentions are the best, you can still misinterpret incoming messages if you and the speaker don’t share enough language or experience. Lack

Distinguishing Good Listeners from Bad Listeners

The Bad Listener

The Good Listener Is an Active Listener

Tunes out dry subjects

Seeks opportunities; asks “What’s in it for me?”

1. Find areas of interest.

Tunes out if delivery is poor

Judges content; skips over delivery errors

2. Judge content, not delivery.

Tends to enter into argument

Doesn’t judge until comprehension is complete; interrupts only to clarify

3. Reserve judgment until you are sure you completely understand the speaker.

Listens for facts

Listens for central themes

4. Listen for ideas.

Takes extensive notes

Takes fewer notes

5. Take selective notes.

Fakes attention

Demonstrates interest; exhibits active body state

6. Work at listening.

Is distracted easily

Fights or avoids distractions; knows how to concentrate

7. Block out competing thoughts.

Resists difficult material

Uses heavier material as exercise for the mind

8. Paraphrase the speaker’s ideas.

Reacts to emotional words

Interprets emotional words; does not get hung up on them

Tends to daydream with slow speakers

Listens between the lines; weighs the evidence; mentally summarizes

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To Listen Effectively

9. Stay open-minded. 10. Capitalize on the fact that thought is faster than speech.

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of common ground is why misinterpretation is so frequent between speakers of different native languages, even when they’re trying to speak the same language. When listening to a speaker whose native language or life experience is different from yours, paraphrase that person’s ideas. Give the speaker a chance to confirm what you think you heard or to correct any misinterpretation. Overcoming memory barriers is a slightly easier problem to solve, but it takes some work. If the information is crucial, record it or write it down. If you do need to memorize something, you can hold the information in short-term memory by repeating it silently to yourself or organizing a long list of items into several shorter lists. To store information in long-term memory, four techniques can help:

When information is crucial and you can’t record it in some way, use memory techniques to make sure you don’t forget it.

1. Associate new information with something closely related (such as your favourite restaurant). 2. Categorize the new information into logical groups (such as alphabetizing the names of products you’re trying to remember). 3. Visualize words and ideas as pictures. 4. Create mnemonics such as acronyms or rhymes. For a reminder of the steps you can take to overcome listening barriers, see “Checklist: Overcoming Barriers to Effective Listening.”

✓Checklist

Overcoming Barriers to Effective Listening

• Lower barriers to physical reception whenever you can (especially interrupting speakers by asking questions or by exhibiting disruptive nonverbal behaviours). • Avoid selective listening by focusing on the speaker and carefully analyzing what you hear. • Keep an open mind by avoiding any prejudgment and by not listening defensively. • Paraphrase the speaker’s ideas, giving that person a chance to confirm or correct your interpretation.

• Don’t count on your memory; write down or record important information. • Improve your short-term memory by repeating information or breaking it into shorter lists. • Improve your long-term memory by association, categorization, visualization, and mnemonics.

Improving Your Nonverbal Communication Skills Nonverbal communication is the interpersonal process of sending and receiving information, both intentionally and unintentionally, without using written or spoken language. Nonverbal signals play a vital role in communication because they can strengthen a verbal message (when the nonverbal signals match the spoken words), weaken a verbal message (when nonverbal signals don’t match the words), or replace words entirely. For example, you might tell a client that a project is coming along nicely, but your forced smile and nervous glances will send an entirely different message.

RECOGNIZING NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION Paying special attention to nonverbal signals in the workplace will enhance your ability to communicate successfully (see “Sharpening Your Career Skills: Developing Your Business Etiquette”). The range and variety of nonverbal

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Nonverbal communication supplements spoken language. Nonverbal cues help you ascertain the truth of spoken information.

7

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Clarify the importance of nonverbal communication, and list six categories of nonverbal expression.

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54 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Gary Ombler/Dorling Kindersley Limited

signals are almost endless, but you can grasp the basics by studying six general categories: 1. Facial expression and eye contact. Your face is the primary site for expressing your emotions; it reveals both the type and the intensity of your feelings.55 Your eyes are especially effective for indicating attention and interest, influencing others, regulating interaction, and establishing dominance.56 2. Gesture and posture. The way you position and move your body expresses both specific and general messages, some voluntary and some involuntary. Many gestures—a wave of the hand, for example—have a specific and intentional meaning. Other types of body movement are unintentional and express a more general message. Slouching, leaning forward, fidgeting, and walking briskly are all unconscious signals that reveal whether you feel confident or nervous, friendly or hostile, assertive or passive, powerful or powerless. 3. Vocal characteristics. Your voice also carries both intentional and unintentional messages. A speaker can intentionally control pitch, pace, and stress to convey a specific message. For instance, compare “What are you doing?” and “What are you doing?” Unintentional vocal characteristics can convey happiness, surprise, fear, and other emotions (for example, fear often increases the pitch and the pace of your speaking voice). 4. Personal appearance. People often make judgements about status, credibility, and even personality based on our appearance—clothing, grooming, and posture. A professional image sends the message that we are able to work with management, peers, and customers. Not only does our appearance influence people’s perception of us, but the way our documents and even our office space are organized tells others about the way we work and our commitment to a particular job and organization. 5. Touch. Touch is an important way to convey warmth, comfort, and reassurance—as well as control. Touch is so powerful, in fact, that it is governed by cultural customs that establish who can touch whom and how in various circumstances. In Canada, the United States, and Great Britain, for example, people usually touch less frequently than people in France or Costa Rica. Even within each culture’s norms, however, individual attitudes toward touch can vary widely. A manager might be comfortable using hugs to express support or congratulations, but his or her subordinates might interpret those hugs as either a show of dominance or sexual interest.57 Touch is a complex subject. The best advice: when in doubt, don’t touch. 6. Time and space. Like touch, time and space can be used to assert authority, imply intimacy, and send other nonverbal messages. For example, some people demonstrate their own importance or disregard for others by making people wait; others show respect by being on time. Similarly, taking care not to invade private space, such as by standing too close when talking, When you speak with friends, colleagues, or teachers, do you is a way to show respect for others. Keep in mind consciously analyze their body language? What do the stance, that expectations regarding both time and space vary the eye contact, and the gesture suggest about the unspoken messages between the people in this photograph? by culture.

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SHARPENING YOUR CAREER SKILLS

Developing Your Business Etiquette

From business lunches to industry conferences, you may represent your company when you’re out in public. Make sure your appearance and actions are appropriate to the situation. • Get to know the customs of the culture when you meet new people. For example, in North America, a firm handshake is expected when two people meet, whereas a respectful bow of the head is more appropriate in Japan. If you are expected to shake hands, be aware that the passive “dead fish” handshake creates an extremely negative impression. If you are physically able, always stand when shaking someone’s hand. • Use proper introductions. When introducing yourself, include a brief description of your role in the company. When introducing two other people, speak their first and last names clearly, and then try to offer some information (perhaps a shared professional interest) to help the two people ease into a conversation. Generally speaking, the lower-ranking person is introduced to the senior-ranking person, without regard to gender. • Be familiar with dining etiquette. Business is often conducted over meals, and knowing the basics of dining etiquette will make you more effective in these situations. Start by choosing foods that are easy to eat. Avoid alcoholic beverages in most instances, but if drinking one is appropriate, save it for the end of the meal. Leave business documents in your briefcase until entrée plates

have been removed; the business aspect of the meal doesn’t usually begin until then. • Put your cellphone away. Just as in the office, when you use your mobile phone around other people in public, you send the message that people around you aren’t as important as your call and that you don’t respect your caller’s privacy. If it’s not an emergency, or at least an urgent request from your boss or a customer, wait until you’re back in the office. • Behave professionally when dining. Finally, always remember that business meals are a forum for business, not casual socializing. Avoid discussing politics, religion, or any other topic that’s likely to stir up emotions. Don’t complain about work; don’t ask deeply personal questions; avoid profanity; and be careful with humour—a joke that entertains some people could easily offend others. CAREER APPLICATIONS 1. You are introduced to a new business associate. You extend your hand expecting a handshake, but the person does not extend his. What do you do? Explain your answer. 2. You are at lunch with new clients and you thought you put your cellphone on “silent,” but it goes off—and very loudly. What you do? What do you say?

USING NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION EFFECTIVELY Paying attention to nonverbal cues will make you both a better speaker and a better listener. Are they effective without being manipulative? Consider a situation in which an employee has come to you to talk about a raise. This situation is stressful for the employee, so don’t say you’re interested in what she has to tell you and then spend your time glancing at your computer or checking your watch. Conversely, if you already know you won’t be able to give her the raise, be honest in expressing your emotions. Don’t overcompensate for your own stress by smiling too broadly or shaking her hand too vigorously. Both nonverbal signals would raise her hopes without justification. In either case, match your nonverbal cues to the tone of the situation. Also consider the nonverbal signals you send when you’re not talking—the clothes you wear, the way you sit, or the way you walk. Are you talking like a serious business professional but dressing like you belong in a dance club or a frat house? The way you look and act sends signals too; make sure you’re sending the right ones. When you listen, be sure to pay attention to the speaker’s nonverbal cues. Do they amplify the spoken words or contradict them? Is the speaker intentionally using nonverbal signals to send you a message that he or she can’t put into words? Be observant, but don’t assume that you can “read someone like a book.”

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Work to ensure that your nonverbal signals match the tone and content of your spoken communication

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56 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Nonverbal signals are powerful, but they aren’t infallible. Just because someone doesn’t look you squarely in the eye doesn’t mean he or she is lying, contrary to popular belief.58 Moreover, these and other behaviours may be influenced by culture (in some cultures, sustained eye contact can be interpreted as a sign of disrespect) or might just be ways of coping with stressful situations.59

SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1 Explain the advantages and disadvantages of working in teams, including the characteristics of high-performing teams. Teams can achieve a higher level of performance than individuals because of the combined intelligence and energy of the group. Individuals tend to perform better in teams because they achieve a sense of purpose by belonging to a group. Teams also bring more input and a greater diversity of views, which tend to result in better decisions. And because team members participate in the decision-making process, they are committed to seeing the results succeed. Teams do have disadvantages, however. If poorly managed, teams can be a waste of everyone’s time. If members are pressured to conform, they may develop groupthink, which can lead to poor-quality decisions and ill-advised actions. Some members may let their private motives get in the way. Others may not contribute their fair share, so certain tasks may not be completed.

2 Explain how group dynamics can affect team effectiveness. The roles group members assume result in either the success or the failure of the group’s ability to solve problems and make decisions. As teams go through the phases of group formation (orientation, conflict, brainstorming, emergence, and reinforcement) to reach consensus, members who assume team-oriented roles, instead of selforiented roles, help create team success because they place collective goals above personal ones.

3 Outline an effective approach to team communication. Effective team communication is collaborative. Although team members often come from different backgrounds with different concerns, they must accommodate others’ opinions and focus on team objectives instead of individual priorities. Effective team communication includes agreeing on team goals before beginning the project, allowing for early social interaction to create a comfortable work atmosphere, clarifying the work process and schedules, and frequent checking on the group’s progress. If team members use technology to share information, they must ensure the system is functional.

4 Explain the benefits of collaboration technologies. Collaboration technologies help professionals plan, prepare, and produce reports, presentations, and other communication efforts anywhere, anytime. Wikis allow online editing from any team member and permit review of previous page versions. Groupware lets people work on documents simultaneously and connect using social net-

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working tools. Shared workspaces are online offices that give teams access to the same set of resources, such as databases and project plans.

5 Describe the key steps needed to ensure productive meetings. For a productive meeting, clarify its purpose— is it an informational or decision-making meeting? Then, select the essential participants. Choose the location and time, making sure the environment is suitable. Set the agenda, which is the basis of a productive meeting. As the meeting progresses, be sure to keep it focused, follow a designated procedure, encourage people to talk, and summarize the key points at the end.

6 Describe the listening process, and explain how good listeners use active listening to overcome barriers at each stage of the process. The listening process involves five activities: (a) receiving (physically hearing the message), (b) decoding (assigning meaning to what you hear), (c) remembering (storing the message for future reference), (d) evaluating (thinking critically about the message), and (e) responding (reacting to the message, taking action, or giving feedback). Three barriers can interfere with each stage of the listening process. One is selective listening, which prevents the listener from retaining the real message; this problem can be overcome by listening actively. The second is prejudgment, which involves holding assumptions and sometimes even distorting messages if they don’t conform to what you want to hear. Good listeners practise active listening strategies and control prejudgment by listening with an open mind. The third is memory barriers, which good listeners overcome with such techniques as organizing information into patterns and taking notes.

7 Clarify the importance of nonverbal communication, and list six categories of nonverbal expression. Nonverbal communication is important because actions may speak louder than words. Body language is more difficult to control than words and may reveal a person’s true feelings, motivation, or character. Consequently, people tend to believe nonverbal signals over the spoken message. In addition, nonverbal communication is more efficient; with a wave of your hand or a wink, you can streamline your thoughts—and do so without much thought. Types of nonverbal expression include facial expression, gesture and posture, vocal characteristics, personal appearance, touching, and use of time and space.

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ON THE JOB

PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT ROYAL BANK OF CANADA

Teamwork permeates all business activities at Royal Bank of Canada. New employees are introduced to the team approach right away, ensuring that everyone contributes to the company’s success through effective teamwork. You have recently been promoted to assistant branch manager at your neighbourhood Royal Bank. Your responsibilities include (1) promoting the team concept among all customer service representatives in your branch and (2) serving as a team leader on special projects that involve your staff. Use what you’ve learned in this chapter to address the following challenges: 1. Your district manager has asked you and three other employees at your large urban branch to find a solution to the lack of sufficient office space for the growing number of workers at your location. As leader, you schedule team meetings on Thursday afternoons for four weeks to address the problem. After two meetings with your co-workers, you notice that everyone is making vital contributions to the group’s efforts—except Jane. During the meetings, she displays very poor listening skills. She often jumps ahead of the topic or interrupts a speaker’s train of thought. At other times, she doodles on her notepad instead of taking constructive notes. And she remains silent after team members deliver lengthy reports about possible solutions to the office space problem. What can you do as team leader to help Jane improve her listening skills? a. Ask Jane to take extensive notes during each meeting. The process of taking detailed notes will improve her concentration and force her to listen more carefully to team members. After the meeting, she can use her notes as a reference to clarify any questions about team decisions or the nature of assignments to individual team members. b. Suggest that Jane mentally summarize the speaker’s ideas—or verbally rephrase the ideas in her own words—during the meeting. With some practice, Jane should be able to focus on the topics under discussion and block out distracting thoughts. c. Schedule future team meetings for Thursday mornings instead of Thursday afternoons. After devoting most of the workday to her regular duties, Jane may be feeling tired or sluggish by the time of your team meeting. d. Prepare a detailed written summary of each meeting. The summary will clarify any points that Jane may have

missed during the meeting and provide her with a complete reference of team decisions and assignments. 2. As assistant branch manager, you schedule a team meeting to discuss new methods of motivating customer service representatives to achieve their quarterly goals for selling bank products, such as guaranteed investment certificates. During the meeting, one customer service representative disagrees with every suggestion offered by team members, often reacting with a sneer on his face and a belligerent tone of voice. Which of the following strategies is the best way to overcome the rep’s resistance? a. Ignore his remarks. Keep the meeting on track and avoid destructive confrontations by asking for input from other team members. b. Directly confront the sales rep’s concerns. Point out the flaws in his arguments, and offer support for the opinions of other team members. c. Remain calm and try to understand his point of view. Ask him to clarify his ideas, and solicit his suggestions for motivating sales representatives. d. Politely acknowledge his opinions, and then repeat the most valid suggestions offered by other team members in a convincing manner. 3. The district manager realizes his communication skills are important for several reasons: he holds primary responsibility for the region; he needs to communicate with the branch managers who report to him; and his style sets an example for other employees in the region. He asks you to sit in on face-to-face meetings for several days to observe his nonverbal messages. You witness four habits. Which of the following habits do you think is the most negative? a. He rarely comes out from behind his massive desk when meeting people; at one point, he offered a congratulatory handshake to a branch manager, and the manager had to lean way over his desk just to reach him. b. When a manager hands him a report and then sits down to discuss it, he alternates between making eye contact and making notes on the report. c. He is consistently pleasant, even if the person he is meeting is delivering bad news. d. He interrupts meetings to answer the phone, rather than letting an assistant get the phone; then he apologizes to visitors for the interruption.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. What are three ways in which an organization’s decision making can benefit from teams? 2. What are the main activities that make up the listening process?

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3. What questions should an effective agenda answer? 4. How do self-oriented team roles differ from teammaintenance roles and task-facilitating roles?

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58 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

5. What is groupthink? How can it affect an organization? 6. How can team members successfully resolve conflict? 7. How does content listening differ from critical listening and empathic listening?

8. What are the benefits of wikis and web-based meeting systems as meeting technologies? 9. How is nonverbal communication limited? 10. What is the purpose of using parliamentary procedure?

APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. How can nonverbal communication help you run a meeting? How can it help you call a meeting to order, emphasize important topics, show approval, express reservations, regulate the flow of conversation, and invite a colleague to continue with a comment? 2. Your boss frequently asks for feedback from you and her other subordinates, but she blasts anyone who offers criticism, which causes people to agree with everything she says. You want to talk to her about it, but what should you say? List some of the points you want to make when you discuss this issue with her. 3. Is conflict in a team good or bad? Explain your answer. 4. At your last department meeting, three people monopolized the entire discussion. What might you do at the next meeting to encourage other department members to participate voluntarily?

5. You have been invited to a meeting to provide an update on one of your projects. You did not receive an agenda, nor do you know anything about the attendees. What can you do to optimize your time and that of other attendees? 6. Ethical Choices Strange instant messages occasionally pop up on your computer screen during your team’s virtual meetings, followed quickly by embarrassed apologies from one of your colleagues in another city. You eventually figure out that this person is working from home, even though he says he’s in the office; moreover, the messages suggest that he’s running a sideline business from his home. Instant messaging is crucial to your team’s communication, and you’re concerned about the frequent disruptions, not to mention your colleague’s potential ethical violations. What should you do? Explain your choice.

RUNNING CASES > CASE 1  Noreen Noreen is planning to attend a WebEx online meeting today at 11:00 a.m. Her boss has asked her to participate in the meeting with other Petro-Go “Go Points” team leaders from around the world. The group is to compile statistics regarding the “Go Points” program as well as discuss strategies for expanding the program and improving customer retention. They are to submit a report in one week, detailing their findings and suggestions. Noreen begins the set-up and login process on her computer at 10:45 a.m. She finds that because she has never participated in a WebEx conference, she is unable to prepare her computer. She calls the technical department, and a technician comes to set it up for her. She finally connects with the group at 12:30 p.m. By this time they are ending the meeting and planning to meet tomorrow at the same time. Noreen apologizes and explains what happened, but she feels rather embarrassed. The next day Noreen connects on time but is somewhat behind the discussion because she does not know what was discussed the day before. She tries her best to share information but is scrambling to find the data she needs to share with the group. The group divides the workload among them and asks everyone to meet online again at 11:00 a.m. in three days to share and review their work. Noreen types her team’s statistics and suggestions for expanding and finishes early. When she meets the group again she discovers that not only did every-

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one type their team’s statistics and suggestions for expanding the program, but they also compared their team’s performance with two other office teams and gave suggestions for improving customer retention. Noreen was not aware they were supposed to include all of this information. One team leader volunteered to compile everything and said he would contact the others tomorrow if he had questions. Noreen knew she would be out of the office for the next three days on training. The report was finished on time, but Noreen’s team’s section was incomplete. Her boss was not happy. QUESTIONS a. Why did Noreen not know what was expected? b. What could Noreen have done differently to ensure communication would not break down? c. Should Noreen have alerted the others to the fact that her section was incomplete? d. Should the group have gone ahead with the report without Noreen’s completed section? e. What could Noreen have done to ensure that she had done the task correctly? YOUR TASK Write an email from Noreen to her boss explaining what happened and apologizing for the errors. She should admit fault and offer suggestions for correcting the situation.

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> CASE 2  Kwong Kwong is working on a group project for his business communication class. His group members are Mohamed, Gopan, and Marie. The project is to choose a company and research its channels and methods of communication. The group will submit a formal report and deliver a presentation. The group divides the tasks for the project: Kwong will create the PowerPoint slides; Marie and Mohamed will gather the information; and Gopan will create the formal report. Mohamed does not attend the next class. The group sends several emails to Mohamed over the course of the next four days, but they get no response. The group emails the professor to make her aware of the situation and to ask for guidance on how to proceed. The day the project is due, Mohamed meets Gopan outside the classroom door. They have a loud argument that the class overhears. The teacher asks Kwong’s group to stay after class to discuss any problems their group may have. The class begins, and Kwong’s group does not allow Mohamed to present with them; nor do they accept his work. After class Gopan complains that Mohamed did his part incorrectly and did not participate. Marie says she came with Mohamed’s part done and added it to their project, so they would not lose marks. Mohamed tells the group that he had family problems and apologizes for his absence. Mohamed is willing to accept a zero grade. The professor discusses appropriate behaviour with the team. Gopan apologizes for yelling at Mohamed, and they shake hands. The next day when each member emailed the professor their peer evaluation forms, both Mohamed and Kwong said they did not wish to work in a group with Gopan again.

The group members each gave Mohamed a low grade because of his lack of participation. QUESTIONS a. Do you think having a group contract from the beginning of the group assignment would have helped the situation? Could a contract outlining team member expectations and deliverables have helped ensure that communication would not break down? b. Was the group being mean by making the professor aware of Mohamed’s non-participation? Why did they inform her? c. Why do you think Mohamed did not wish to work with Gopan again? Why do you think Kwong did not wish to work with Gopan again? d. What could Gopan have done differently? What could Mohamed have done differently? e. Should the group have let Mohamed present with them? YOUR TASK Create an email to your professor evaluating Gopan’s, Mohamed’s, Marie’s, and Kwong’s individual performance on this group assignment. Rate them on 1. Cooperation 2. Participation 3. Contribution 4. Demonstrated interest 5. Communication Give a brief explanation as to why you rated each member the way you did.

PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE A project leader has made notes about covering the following items at the quarterly budget meeting. Prepare a formal agenda by putting these items into a logical order and rewriting, where necessary, to give phrases a more consistent sound.

• Budget Committee Meeting to be held on December 13, 2013, at 9:30 a.m. • I will call the meeting to order. • Real estate director’s report: A closer look at cost overruns on Greentree site. • The group will review and approve the minutes from last quarter’s meeting.

• I will ask the finance director to report on actual versus projected quarterly revenues and expenses.

• I will distribute copies of the overall divisional budget and announce the date of the next budget meeting.

• Discussion: How can we do a better job of anticipating and preventing cost overruns?

• Meeting will take place in Conference Room 3, with videoconferencing for remote employees.

• What additional budget issues must be considered during this quarter?

EXERCISES 2.1 Teamwork: Meeting Assessment With a classmate, attend a local community or campus meeting where you can observe a group discussion, vote, or other group action. During the meeting, take notes individually, and afterward, work together to answer the following questions:

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a. What is your evaluation of this meeting? In your answer, consider (1) the leader’s ability to articulate the meeting’s goals clearly, (2) the leader’s ability to engage members in a meaningful discussion, (3) the group’s dynamics, and (4) the group’s listening skills.

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60 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

b. How did group members make decisions? Did they vote? Did they reach decisions by consensus? Did those with dissenting opinions get an opportunity to voice their objections? c. How well did the individual participants listen? How could you tell? d. Did any participants change their expressed views or their votes during the meeting? Why might that have happened? e. List any barriers to communication that you observed. f. Compare the notes you took during the meeting with those of your classmate. What differences do you notice? How do you account for these differences?

2.2 Team Communication: Overcoming Barriers Every month, each employee in your department is expected to give a brief oral presentation on the status of his or her project. However, your department has recently hired an employee with a severe speech impediment that prevents people from understanding most of what he has to say. As department manager, how will you resolve this dilemma? Please explain.

2.3 Team Development: Resolving Conflict Describe a recent conflict you had with a team member at work or at school, and explain how you resolved it. Did you find a solution that was acceptable to both of you and to the team?

2.4 Ethical Choices: Dealing with a Meeting Controller During team meetings, one member constantly calls for votes before all the members have voiced their views. As the leader, you asked this member privately about his behaviour. He replied that he was trying to move the team toward its goals, but you are concerned that he is really trying to take control. How can you deal with this situation without removing the member from the group?

2.5 Online Communication: Using Collaboration Technologies In this project, you will conduct research on your own and then merge your results with those of the rest of your team. Search Twitter for messages on the subject of workplace safety. (You can use Twitter’s advanced search page at https://twitter. com/search-advanced or use the “site: twitter.com” qualifier on a regular search engine.) Compile at least five general safety tips that apply to any office setting, and then meet with your team to select the five best tips from all those the team has collected. Collaborate on a blog post that lists the team’s top five tips.

2.6 Online Collaboration: Using Collaboration Technologies In a team assigned by your instructor, use Zoho (www.zoho. com; free for personal use), Google Drive (http://drive.google. com) or a comparable system to collaborate on a set of directions that out-of-town visitors could use to reach a specific point on your campus, such as a stadium or dorm. The team should

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choose the location and the modes of transportation involved. Be creative—brainstorm the best ways to guide first-time visitors to the selected location using all the media at your disposal.

2.7 Listening Skills: Overcoming Barriers For the next several days, take notes on your listening performance during at least a half-dozen situations in class, during social activities, and at work, if applicable. Referring to the traits of the good listener in Table 2–3, rate yourself using always, frequently, occasionally, or never on these positive listening habits. In a report no longer than one page, summarize your analysis and identify specific areas in which you can improve your listening skills.

2.8 Nonverbal Communication: Analyzing Written Messages Select a business letter and an envelope that you received at work or home. Analyze their appearance. What nonverbal messages do they send? Are these messages consistent with the content of the letter? If not, what could the sender have done to make the nonverbal communication consistent with the verbal communication?

2.9 Nonverbal Communication: Analyzing Body Language Describe what the following body movements suggest when someone exhibits them during a conversation. How do such movements influence your interpretation of spoken words? a. Shifting one’s body continuously while seated b. Twirling and playing with one’s hair c. Sitting in a sprawled position d. Rolling one’s eyes e. Extending a weak handshake

2.10 Collaboration: Working in Teams In teams of four or five classmates, role play a scenario in which the team is to decide which department at your college will receive a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor. The catch: each member of the team will advocate for a different department (decide among yourselves who represents which departments), which means that all but one member will “lose” in the final decision. Working as a team, decide which department will receive the donation and discuss the results to help everyone on the team support the decision. Be prepared to present your choice and your justification for it to the rest of the class.

2.11 Culturally Diverse Teams It is quite possible that you have been assigned a team project or exercise as one of the assignments for this course. It is also likely that the group membership is culturally diverse. Use your understanding of the barriers to effective communication to outline strategies you and your project team members could use to promote effective communication and the achievement of your goals.

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3

Communicating Interculturally

LEARNING OBJECTIVES  After studying this chapter, you will be able to

1

Discuss the opportunities and challenges of intercultural communication

5

List seven recommendations for writing clearly in multilanguage business environments

2

Define culture, and explain how culture is learned

6

Outline strategies for speaking and listening when communicating with people of other cultures

3

Define ethnocentrism and stereotyping, and then give three suggestions for overcoming these limiting mindsets

4

Explain the importance of recognizing cultural variations, and list six categories of cultural differences

ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT

MyLab Business Communication  Visit MyLab Business Communication to access a variety of online resources directly related to this chapter’s content.

IBM

DAI KUROKAWA Feature Photo Service/Newscom

Building International Advantage through Corporate Service www.ibm.com

An IBM Corporate Service Corps team has improved health care delivery in Cross River State, Nigeria. For IBM and other multinational companies, international service benefits local communities, develops global leaders, and creates business partnerships.

“[IBM’s Corporate Service Corps is] not just philanthropy, it’s leadership development and business development, and it helps build economic development in the emerging world,” says Stanley Litow, IBM’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs. With more than 3000 participants so far, IBM’s Corporate Service Corps has developed into a highly competitive employee opportunity with up to 500 IBMers a year participating. Ten- to 15-member teams, primarily from mid- to upper management, work on international communitybased economic projects to improve how local businesses and governments operate. Communities in Ghana, Nigeria, Romania, the Philippines, Morocco, and Vietnam, among other countries, have benefited from IBM expertise, with IBM employees gaining valuable career experience and IBM itself gaining potential clients. Launched in 2008, the Corporate Service Corps has so far sent more than 275 teams to more than 37 countries around the world. Participants themselves are drawn from IBM’s global workforce, with offices in 200 countries. Teams themselves are multiethnic: a team to Romania, sent to help GreenForest, a manufacturer of office, hotel, and industrial furniture, included experts from the United States, China, Japan, Australia, and India. To qualify, employees must show clear leadership skills, a strong desire to immerse themselves in another culture, knowledge of business and service delivery practices, and evidence of adaptability to challenging global environments. 61

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62 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Members undergo three months of training during which they learn about their host countries, build team relationships through teleconferences and social networking websites, and gain consulting skills suitable for emerging markets. With missions lasting only four weeks, the main goal, according to one participant, is to “be teachers and introduce clients to new ways of thinking about business that they can use on their own.” The outcomes may lead to better use of technology to monitor health care, as in Cross River State, Nigeria, or

improved management of food quality and safety, as in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. IBM’s Corporate Service Corps builds global citizens, which are essential for successful business. Al Checkra, a software development manager chosen for the project in Romania, remarked, “I felt like I won the lottery when I was accepted.” Would you want to work on a corporate service team? What would appeal to you about an international experience?1

Understanding the Opportunities and Challenges of Intercultural Communication 1

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Discuss the opportunities and challenges of intercultural communication.

Effective intercultural communication • Opens up business opportunities around the world • Improves the contributions of employees in a diverse workforce You will communicate with people from other cultures throughout your career.

The diversity of today’s workforce brings distinct advantages to businesses: • A broader range of views and ideas • A better understanding of diverse markets • A broader pool of talent from which to recruit

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Intercultural communication is the process of sending and receiving messages between people whose cultural backgrounds could lead them to interpret verbal and nonverbal signs differently. Every attempt to send and receive messages is influenced by culture. Your awareness of cultural differences and ability to communicate effectively within different environments will open up business opportunities throughout the world and maximize the contribution of all the employees in a diverse workforce.

THE OPPORTUNITIES IN A GLOBAL MARKETPLACE Chances are good that you’ll be looking across international borders in the course of your career. Thanks to communication and transportation technologies, natural boundaries and national borders are no longer the impassable barriers they once were. Local markets are opening to worldwide competition as businesses of all sizes look for new growth opportunities outside their own countries. Thousands of Canadian businesses depend on exports for significant portions of their revenues. But exports are not the only way in which Canadian companies conduct business abroad. According to Export Development Canada’s Foreign Footprints survey results (2016), “foreign affiliate sales eclipsed merchandise goods exports as the largest source of international revenue in 2006 and generated $510 billion in 2013 alone. By comparison, merchandise goods exports created $472 billion in international revenue and services brought in just $93 billion.” The survey outlined that while foreign affiliates provide companies with access to a variety of competitive sources and easier entry to new markets, they also often receive support from head office in areas such as marketing, accounting, logistics, and research and development. And while the United States was recognized as continuing to be the most important market for Canadian foreign affiliate investment, substantial growth will be seen in emerging economies such as China, India, and Brazil.2 If you work in one of these companies, you may well be called on to visit or at least communicate with a wide variety of people who speak languages other than English and who live in cultures quite different from what you’re used to.

ADVANTAGES OF A MULTICULTURAL WORKFORCE Even if you never visit another country or transact business on a global scale, you will interact with colleagues from a variety of cultures and with a wide range of life experiences. Over the past few decades, many innovative companies have changed the way they approach diversity, from seeing it as a legal requirement

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to seeing it as a strategic opportunity to connect with customers and take advantage of the broadest possible pool of talent.3 Diverse workforces offer a broader spectrum of viewpoints and ideas, help companies understand and identify with diverse markets, and enable companies to tap into the broadest possible talent pool. Says Gordon Nixon, president and chief executive officer of Royal Bank of Canada, “If we succeed at leveraging the diversity of our current and future workforce, we will have unrivalled advantage. But if we fail, we will pay a heavy opportunity cost for our citizens and will face an uphill battle to maintain, let alone enhance, our quality of life.”4 Diversity is integral to all companies. In November 2010, the Government of Canada announced a plan to help sustain the economic recovery by maintaining high immigration levels.5 From 2011 to 2015, Canada welcomed an average of 259 000 immigrants per year.6 Canadian firms have responded to the needs of these employees through training and other supportive measures to improve communication. For example, Toronto’s Dalton Pharma Services offers English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to its diverse workforce.7 Furthermore, for 2016 and 2017, to help offset the aging population and declining labour force, Immigration Canada increased the baseline for permanent resident admissions to 300 000, with more than 50% being economic immigrants.8 You and your colleagues don’t need to be recent immigrants to constitute a diverse workforce. Differences in everything from age and gender to religion, ethnic heritage, geography, and military experience enrich the workplace. Both immigration This schedule from CHIN Radio (www.chinradio.com), a broadcaster of and workforce diversity create opportunities—and multicultural programs, reflects the diversity of Canadian society. Besides challenges—for business communicators through- radio, what other media will help you understand different cultures? out the world. At RBC, for example, the definition Courtesy: CHIN Radio of workplace diversity includes different perspectives, work experience, lifestyles, and cultures and specifically refers to “any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. It means respect for and appreciation of differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, and religion.”9 See RBC’s Diversity 2020 initiatives and progress report at http://www .rbc.com/diversity/diversity-progress-report.html.

THE CHALLENGES OF INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION Cultural diversity affects how business messages are conceived, planned, sent, received, and interpreted in the workplace. Today’s diverse workforce encompasses a wide range of skills, traditions, backgrounds, experiences, outlooks, and attitudes toward work—all of which can affect employee behaviour on the job. Supervisors face the challenge of communicating with these diverse employees, motivating them, and fostering cooperation and harmony among

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A company’s cultural diversity affects how its business messages are conceived, composed, delivered, received, and interpreted.

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64 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Culture influences everything about communication, including • Language • Nonverbal signals • Word meaning • Time and space issues • Rules of human relationships

them. Teams face the challenge of working together closely, and companies are challenged to foster productive relationships with other businesses and with the community as a whole. The way you communicate—from the language you speak and the nonverbal signals you send to the way you perceive other people—is influenced by the culture and environment in which you were raised. The meaning of words, the significance of gestures, the importance of time and space, the rules of human relationships—these and many other aspects of communication are defined by culture. To a large degree, your culture influences the way you think, which naturally affects the way you communicate as both a sender and a receiver.10 So you can see how intercultural communication is much more complicated than simply matching language between sender and receiver. It goes beyond mere words to beliefs, values, attitudes, and emotions. Throughout this chapter, you’ll see examples of how communication styles and habits vary from one culture to another. These examples are intended to illustrate the major themes of intercultural communication, not to give an exhaustive list of styles and habits of any particular culture. Understanding these major themes will help prepare you to explore the nuances and practices of any culture.

Developing Cultural Competency Cultural competency is an appreciation of cultural differences that affect communication and the ability to adjust one’s communication style to ensure that efforts to send and receive messages across cultural boundaries are successful. It requires a combination of attitude, knowledge, and skills.11 You are already an expert in culture, at least in the culture you grew up with. You understand how your society works, how people are expected to communicate, what common gestures and facial expressions mean, and so on. However, because you’re such an expert in your own culture, your communication is largely automatic; that is, you rarely stop to think about the communication rules you’re following. An important step toward successful intercultural communication is becoming more aware of these rules and of the way they influence your communication. A good place to start is to understand what culture is.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONCEPT OF CULTURE 2

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Define culture, and explain how culture is learned.

Culture is a shared system of symbols, beliefs, attitudes, values, expectations, and behavioural norms. You belong to several cultures, each of which affects the way you communicate.

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Culture is a shared system of symbols, beliefs, attitudes, values, expectations, and norms of behaviour. People’s cultural background influences the way they prioritize what is important in life, helps define their attitude toward what is appropriate in any given situation, and establishes rules for their behaviour.12 Actually, everyone belongs to several cultures. The most obvious is the culture you share with all the people who live in your own country. In addition, you belong to other cultural groups, including an ethnic group, possibly a religious group, and perhaps a profession that has its own special language and customs. For example, with its large population and history of immigration, Canada is home to a vast array of cultures.13 Cultures differ widely and, while they are dynamic, the rate at which they change, their degree of complexity, and their acceptance of others may vary. These differences affect the level of trust and openness that you can achieve when communicating with people of other cultures. People learn culture directly and indirectly from other members of their group. As you grow up in a culture, you are taught who you are and how best to function in that culture by the group’s members. Sometimes you are explicitly told which behaviours are acceptable; at other times you learn by observing

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CHAPTER 3  COMMUNICATING INTERCULTURALLY 65

Paul Chesley/The Image Bank/Getty Images

which values work best in a particular group. In these ways, culture is passed on from person to person and from generation to generation.14 In addition to being automatic, established cultures tend to be coherent; that is, they are fairly logical and consistent when viewed from the inside. Certain norms within a culture may not make sense to someone outside the culture, but they probably make sense to those inside. Such coherence generally helps a culture function more smoothly internally, although it can create disharmony between cultures that don’t view the world in the same way. Cultures also tend to be complete; that is, they provide most of their members with most of the answers to life’s big questions. This idea of completeness dulls or even suppresses curiosity about life in other cultures. Not surprisingly, such completeness can complicate communication with other cultures.15

Experts recommend that companies transacting business with people from other nationalities find out as much as possible about their customs and religions. What information about your background would be necessary for your business partners?

OVERCOMING ETHNOCENTRISM AND STEREOTYPING

• Avoid assumptions. Don’t assume that others will act as you do, that they will operate from the same values and beliefs, or that they will use language and symbols the same way you do. • Avoid judgments. When people act differently, don’t conclude that they are in error, that their way is invalid, or that their customs are inferior to your own. • Acknowledge distinctions. Don’t ignore the differences between another person’s culture and your own.

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3

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Define ethnocentrism and stereotyping, and then give three suggestions for overcoming these limiting mindsets.

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to judge all other groups according to the standards, behaviours, and customs of one’s own group. Stereotyping is assigning generalized attributes to an individual on the basis of membership in a particular group. Cultural pluralism is the acceptance of multiple cultures on their own terms.

Lucky Business/Shutterstock

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to judge all other groups according to the standards, behaviours, and customs of one’s own group. Given the automatic influence of their own culture, when people compare their culture to others, they often conclude that their own group is superior.16 An even more extreme reaction is xenophobia, a fear of strangers and foreigners. Clearly, businesspeople who take these views will not interpret messages from other cultures correctly; nor are they likely to communicate messages successfully. Distorted views of other cultures or groups also result from stereotyping, assigning a wide range of generalized attributes to an individual on the basis of membership in a particular culture or social group. Whereas ethnocentrism and xenophobia represent negative views of everyone in a particular group, stereotyping is more a matter of oversimplifying and of failing to acknowledge individuality. For example, assuming that an older colleague will be out of touch with the youth market and thinking that a younger colleague can’t be an inspiring leader are examples of stereotyping age groups. Those who want to show respect for other people and to communicate effectively in business need to adopt a more positive viewpoint in the form of cultural pluralism—the practice of accepting multiple cultures on their own terms. When crossing cultural boundaries, you’ll be even more effective if you move beyond simple acceptance and adapt your own communication style to that of the new cultures you encounter—even integrating aspects of those cultures into your own.17 Three simple habits can help you avoid both the negativity of ethnocentrism and the oversimplification of stereotyping:

Cultures tend to offer views of life that are coherent (internally logical) and complete (answer all of life’s big questions).

Participation in group activities is an important method of learning about a culture’s rules and expectations. What have you learned about other cultures through groups you belong to? Has it influenced how you communicate with others?

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66 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

You can avoid ethnocentrism and stereotyping by avoiding assumptions and judgments and by accepting differences.

Unfortunately, overcoming ethnocentrism and stereotyping is no simple task, even for people who are highly motivated to do so. You may need to change patterns of beliefs that you’ve had your entire life and even change the way you view yourself and your culture. Moreover, recent research suggests that people often have beliefs and biases that they’re not even consciously aware of—and that may even conflict with the beliefs they think they have. (To see if you might have some of these implicit beliefs, visit the Project Implicit website at https://implicit. harvard.edu/implicit and take some of the simple online tests.)18

RECOGNIZING CULTURAL VARIATIONS 4

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain the importance of recognizing cultural variations, and list six categories of cultural differences.

Cultural differences can lead to miscommunication in the workplace.

Cultural context is the pattern of physical cues, environmental stimuli, and implicit understanding that conveys meaning between members of the same culture. High-context cultures rely heavily on nonverbal actions and environmental setting to convey meaning; low-context cultures rely more on explicit verbal communication.

Low-context cultures tend to value written agreements and interpret laws strictly, whereas high-context cultures view adherence to laws as being more flexible.

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When you communicate with someone from another culture, your instinct is to encode your message using the assumptions of your own culture. However, members of your audience decode your message according to the assumptions of their culture, so your meaning may be misunderstood (see “Communicating across Cultures: Test Your Intercultural Knowledge”). You can begin to learn how people in other cultures want to be treated by recognizing and accommodating six main types of cultural differences: contextual, legal and ethical, social, nonverbal, age, and gender. 1. CONTEXTUAL DIFFERENCES Every attempt at communication occurs within a cultural context, the pattern of physical cues, environmental stimuli, and implicit understanding that conveys meaning between two members of the same culture. However, the role that context plays in communication varies widely across different cultures. In a high-context culture such as South Korea or Taiwan, people rely less on verbal communication and more on the context of nonverbal actions and environmental setting to convey meaning. What is left unsaid is often equally important as what is said. For example, a Chinese speaker expects the receiver to discover the essence of a message and uses indirectness and metaphor to provide a web of meaning.19 The indirect style can be a source of confusion during discussions with people from low-context cultures, who are more accustomed to receiving direct answers. Also, in high-context cultures, the rules of everyday life are rarely explicit; instead, as individuals grow up, they learn how to recognize situational cues such as gestures and tone of voice, or even gender or age and how to respond as expected.20 The primary role of communication is building relationships, not exchanging information.21 In a low-context culture such as Canada, the United States, or Germany, people rely more on verbal communication and less on circumstances and cues to convey meaning. In such cultures, rules and expectations are usually spelled out through explicit statements such as “Please wait until I’m finished” or “You’re welcome to browse.”22 The primary task of communication in low-context cultures is exchanging information.23 Contextual differences are apparent in the way cultures approach situations such as decision making, problem solving, negotiating, interacting among levels in the organizational hierarchy, and socializing outside the workplace.24 For example, in lower-context cultures, businesspeople tend to first focus on the results of the decisions they face, a reflection of the cultural emphasis on logic and progress. In comparison, higher-context cultures emphasize the means or the method by which the decision will be made. Building or protecting relationships can be as important as the facts and information used in making the decisions.25 Consequently, negotiators working on business deals in such cultures may spend most of their time together building relationships rather than hammering out contractual details. In low-context cultures, the intention to reduce ambiguity and its potential strain on relationships is part of the incentive for the carefully laid out details of a contract.26

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2. LEGAL AND ETHICAL DIFFERENCES Cultural context also influences legal and ethical behaviour. For example, because low-context cultures value the written word, they consider written agreements binding. But high-context cultures put less emphasis on the written word and consider personal pledges more important than contracts. They also tend to take a more flexible approach regarding adherence to the law, whereas low-context cultures would adhere to the law strictly.27 As you conduct business around the world, you’ll find that legal systems differ from culture to culture. Making ethical choices across cultures can seem highly complicated, but you can keep your messages ethical by applying the following basic principles:28

Yuri Arcurs/Shutterstock

Whether you’re making a decision, solving a problem, or negotiating a business deal, the communication tactics that work well in a high-context culture may backfire in a low-context culture, and vice versa. The key to success is understanding why the other party is saying and doing particular things and then adapting your approach accordingly.

In the low-context cultures of Canada, the United States, and France, for example, employees avoid socializing with fellow workers and value skill as much as position and status. In the high-context cultures of Greece, China, and Japan, for example, business and social relationships mix, and employees value position and status more than skills. Are these assessments of low-context and high-context cultures accurate, based on your experience? What are the dangers of generalizing culture?

• Actively seek mutual ground. To allow the clearest possible exchange of information, both parties must be flexible and avoid insisting that an interaction take place strictly in terms of one culture or another. • Send and receive messages without judgment. To allow information to flow freely, both parties must recognize that values vary from culture to culture, and they must trust each other. • Send messages that are honest. To ensure that the information is true, both parties must see things as they are—not as they would like them to be. Both parties must be fully aware of their personal and cultural biases. • Show respect for cultural differences. To protect the basic human rights of both parties, each must understand and acknowledge the other’s needs and preserve each other’s dignity by communicating without deception. 3. SOCIAL DIFFERENCES  The nature of social behaviour varies among cultures, sometimes dramatically. These behaviours are guided by rules. Some rules are formal and specifically articulated (table manners are a good example), and some are informal and learned over time (such as the comfortable distance to stand from a colleague during a discussion). The combination of both types of rules influences the overall behaviour of everyone in a society most of the time. In addition to the factors already discussed, social norms can vary from culture to culture in the following areas: • Roles and status. Culture influences the roles that people play, including who communicates with whom, what they communicate, and in what way. For example, people in Canada and the United States show respect by addressing top managers as “Mr. Roberts” or “Ms. Tremblay.” However, people in China are addressed according to their official titles, such as “President” or “Manager.”29 • Use of manners. What is polite in one culture may be considered rude in another. For example, asking a colleague “How was your weekend?” is a common way of making small talk in Canada and the United States, but the question sounds intrusive to people in cultures where business and private lives are seen as totally separate. Communication consultant Laraine Kaminsky says, “Hospitality matters in a collectivist culture like China. It would be considered impolite to help yourself to food at an event, for example, without also

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Honesty and respect are cornerstones of ethical communication, regardless of culture. Formal rules of etiquette are explicit and well defined, but informal rules are learned through observation and imitation.

The rules of polite behaviour vary from country to country.

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68 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Attitudes toward time, such as strict adherence to meeting schedules, can vary throughout the world. The meaning of nonverbal signals can vary widely from culture to culture, so you can’t rely on assumptions.

explicitly inviting colleagues to partake or even offering them a serving. At dinner, pour the tea for everyone at the table before you fill your own cup.”30 • Concepts of time. Business runs on schedules, deadlines, and appointments, but these matters are regarded differently from culture to culture. People in low-context cultures view time as a limited resource and tend to treat schedules as rigid requirements. However, executives from highcontext cultures often see time as more flexible. Meeting a deadline is less important than building a business relationship.31 4. NONVERBAL DIFFERENCES  Nonverbal communication can be a reliable guide to determining the meaning of a message—but this situation holds true only if the sender and receiver assign the same meaning to nonverbal signals. For example, the simplest hand gestures have different meanings in different cultures. Don’t assume that the gestures you grew up with will translate to another culture; doing so could lead to embarrassing mistakes. When you have the opportunity to interact with people in another culture, the best approach is to study the culture in advance and then observe the way people behave in the following areas:

Tatiana Popova/Shutterstock

• Greetings. Do people shake hands, bow, or kiss lightly (on one side of the face or both)? Do people shake hands only when first introduced or every time they say hello or goodbye? • Personal space. When people are conversing, do they stand closer together or farther away than you are accustomed to? • Touching. Do people touch each other on the arm to emphasize a point or slap each other on the back to show congratulation? Or do they refrain from touching altogether? • Facial expressions. Do people shake their heads to indicate “no” and nod them to indicate “yes”? This is what people are accustomed to in Canada and the United States, but it is not universal. • Eye contact. Do people make frequent eye contact or avoid it? Frequent eye contact is often taken as a sign of honesty and openness in Canada and the United States, but in other cultures it can be a sign of aggressiveness or lack of respect. • Posture. Do people slouch and relax in the office and in public, or do they sit up straight? • Formality. In general, does the culture seem more or less formal than yours? Following the lead of people who grew up in the culture is not only a great way to learn, but also a good way to show respect. The “thumbs up” sign means “one” in Germany and “five” in Japan; it is an obscene gesture in Australia and some other countries. The “OK” sign means “zero” or “worthless” in France; indicates money in Japan; and is an obscene gesture in Germany, Brazil, and some other countries. Do you know of other hand signs that are interpreted differently in different countries? Should businesspeople avoid gesturing when interacting with global partners?

A culture’s views on youth and aging affect how people communicate with one another.

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5. AGE DIFFERENCES  Canada celebrates youth in general and successful young businesspeople in particular; for example, newspapers such as the National Post publish special supplements highlighting successful entrepreneurs under 40. Youth is associated with strength, energy, possibilities, and freedom, and age is sometimes associated with declining powers and the inability to keep pace. However, older workers can offer broader experience, the benefits of important business relationships nurtured over many years, and high degrees of “practical intelligence”—the ability to solve complex, poorly defined problems.32 In contrast, in cultures that value age and seniority, longevity earns respect and increasing power and freedom. For example, in many Asian societies, the oldest employees hold the most powerful jobs, the most impressive titles, and the greatest degree of freedom and decision-making authority. If a younger employee disagrees with one of these senior executives, the discussion is never conducted in public. The notion of “saving face,” of avoiding public embarrassment, is too strong. Instead, if a senior person seems to be in error about something, other employees will find a quiet, private way to communicate whatever information they feel is necessary.33

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CHAPTER 3  COMMUNICATING INTERCULTURALLY 69

COMMUNICATING ACROSS CULTURES

Test Your Intercultural Knowledge

Even well-intentioned businesspeople can make mistakes if they aren’t aware of simple but important cultural differences. Can you spot the erroneous assumptions in these scenarios? 1. You are attending a special event at a Chinese hotel with your colleagues. The food is served buffet-style. You are in line with your Chinese associates and select from the choices displayed, expecting your counterparts to follow. Why do they look surprised? 2. You finally made the long trip overseas to meet the new German director of your division. Despite slow traffic, you arrive only four minutes late. His door is shut, so you knock on it and walk in. The chair is too far away from the desk, so you pick it up and move it closer. Then you lean over the desk, stick out your hand and say, “Good morning, Hans, it’s nice to meet you.” Why is his reaction so chilly? 3. Your meeting went better than you’d ever expected. In fact, you found the Japanese representative for your new advertising agency to be very agreeable; she said yes to just about everything. When you share your enthusiasm with your boss, he doesn’t appear very excited. Why? Here’s what went wrong in each situation: 1. In Canada, it is expected that people selecting food from a buffet take it in the order they are in line. In China, it is considered rude to take food before inviting your

colleagues to choose before you. In addition, when having tea with Chinese partners, you should pour for everyone at the table before helping yourself. 2. You’ve just broken four rules of German polite behaviour: punctuality, privacy, personal space, and proper greetings. In time-conscious Germany, you should never arrive even a few minutes late. Also, Germans like their privacy and space, and many adhere to formal greetings of “Frau” and “Herr,” even if the business association has lasted for years. 3. The word yes may not always mean “yes” in the Western sense. Japanese people may say yes to confirm they have heard or understood something but not necessarily to indicate that they agree with it. You’ll seldom get a direct no. Some of the ways that Japanese people say no indirectly include “It will be difficult,” “I will ask my supervisor,” “I’m not sure,” “We will think about it,” and “I see.” CAREER APPLICATIONS 1. Have you ever been on the receiving end of an intercultural communication error, such as when someone inadvertently used an inappropriate gesture or figure of speech? How did you respond? 2. If you had arrived late at the office of the German colleague, what would have been a better way to handle the situation?

In addition to cultural values associated with various life stages, the multiple generations within a culture present another dimension of diversity. Today’s workplaces can have three or even four generations working side by side. Each of these generations has been shaped by dramatically different world events, social trends, and technological advances, so it is not surprising that they often have different values, expectations, and communication habits. For instance, Generation Y workers have a strong preference for communicating via short electronic messages, but Baby Boomers and Generation Xers sometimes find these brief messages abrupt and impersonal.34 6. GENDER DIFFERENCES  The perception of the roles of men and women in business also varies from culture to culture, and these differences can affect communication efforts. In some cultures, men hold most or all positions of authority, and women are expected to play a more subservient role. Female executives who visit these cultures may not be taken seriously until they successfully handle challenges to their knowledge, capabilities, and patience.35

Improving Intercultural Communication Skills Communicating successfully from one culture to another requires a variety of skills (see Figure 3–1). You can improve your intercultural skills throughout your entire career. Begin now by studying other cultures and languages,

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70 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

Overcome ethnocentrism

Recognize cultural variations

ENHANCE INTERCULTURAL SENSITIVITY

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION ACROSS CULTURES

IMPROVE INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS

Study other cultures and languages Respect style preferences

Use interpreters, translators, and translation software

Write and speak clearly

Listen carefully and don't be afraid to ask questions Help others adapt to your culture

Figure 3–1  Components of Successful Intercultural Communication

respecting preferences for communication styles, learning to write and speak clearly, listening carefully, knowing when to use interpreters and translators, and helping others adapt to your culture. TIPS FOR SUCCESS

“Do volunteer work that gives you experience with people from cultures you’ll be dealing with. This will help you understand subtleties of social interactions and manners.”

Jean-Marc Hachey, international careers consultant

STUDYING OTHER CULTURES Successful intercultural communication can require the modification of personal communication habits.

Making an effort to learn about another person’s culture is a sign of respect.

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Effectively adapting your communication efforts to another culture requires not only knowledge about the culture but also both the ability and the motivation to change your personal habits as needed.36 Fortunately, you don’t need to learn about the whole world all at once. Many companies appoint specialists for specific countries or regions, giving you a chance to focus on fewer cultures at a time. Some firms also provide resources to help employees prepare for interaction with other cultures. On IBM’s Global Workforce Diversity intranet site, for instance, employees can click on the GoingGlobal link to learn about customs in specific cultures.37 Even a small amount of research and practice will help you get through many business situations. In addition, most people respond positively to honest effort and good intentions, and many business associates will help you along if you

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show an interest in learning more about their cultures. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, either. People will respect your concern and curiosity. You will gradually accumulate considerable knowledge, which will help you feel comfortable and be effective in a wide range of business situations. For some of the key issues to research before doing business in another country, refer to Table 3–1.

Table 3–1

Doing Business in Other Cultures

Action

Details to Consider

Understand social customs

• How do people react to strangers? Are they friendly? Hostile? Reserved? • How do people greet each other? Should you bow? Nod? Shake hands? • How do you express appreciation for an invitation to lunch, dinner, or someone’s home? Should you bring a gift? Send flowers? Write a thank-you note? • Are any phrases, facial expressions, or hand gestures considered rude? • How do you attract the attention of a waiter? Do you tip the waiter? • When is it rude to refuse an invitation? How do you refuse politely? • What topics may or may not be discussed in a social setting? In a business setting? • How do social customs dictate interaction between men and women? Between younger people and older people?

Learn about clothing and food preferences

• What occasions require special clothing? • What colours are associated with mourning? Love? Joy? • Are some types of clothing considered taboo for one gender or the other? • How many times a day do people eat? • How are hands or utensils used when eating? • Where is the seat of honour at a table?

Assess political patterns

• How stable is the political situation? • Does the political situation affect businesses in and out of the country? • What are the traditional government institutions? • Is it appropriate to talk politics in social or business situations?

Understand religious and folk beliefs

• To which religious groups do people belong? • Which places, objects, actions, and events are sacred? • Do religious beliefs affect communication between men and women or between any other groups? • Is there a tolerance for minority religions? • How do religious holidays affect business and government activities? • Does religion require or prohibit eating specific foods? At specific times?

Learn about economic • Is the society homogeneous or heterogeneous? and business institutions • What languages are spoken? • What are the primary resources and principal products? • Are businesses generally large? Family controlled? Government controlled? • What are the generally accepted working hours? • How do people view scheduled appointments? • Are people expected to socialize before conducting business? Appraise the nature of ethics, values, and laws

• Is money or a gift expected in exchange for arranging business transactions? • Do people value competitiveness or cooperation? • What are the attitudes toward work? Toward money? • Is politeness more important than factual honesty?

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Numerous websites and books also offer advice on travelling to and working in specific countries. For example, websites for the World Trade Organization (www.wto.org) and the CIA’s World Factbook (www.cia.gov) provide essential information for companies planning to conduct business abroad. Additional information on different customs, tastes, and preferences can be gleaned from newspapers and magazines, and even from the music, movies, and foods of another country. Build your cultural intelligence with a cross-section of sources.

STUDYING OTHER LANGUAGES English is the most prevalent language in international business, but don’t assume that everyone understands it or speaks it in the same way.

If you have a long-term business relationship with people of another culture, it is helpful to learn at least some basic words and phrases of their language.

Consider what it must be like to work at IBM, where the company’s global workforce speaks more than 165 languages. Without the ability to communicate in more than one language, how could this diverse group of people conduct business? As commerce continues to become more globalized, the demand for multilingual communicators continues to grow as well. The ability to communicate in more than one language can make you a more competitive job candidate and open up a wider variety of career opportunities. Even if your colleagues or customers in another country do speak your language, it’s worth the time and energy to learn common phrases in theirs. Learning the basics not only helps you get through everyday business and social situations but also demonstrates your commitment to the business relationship. After all, the other person probably spent years learning your language. Finally, don’t assume that two countries speaking the same language speak it in the same way. Canada and the United Kingdom are two countries divided by a common language. For example, apartment, elevator, and gasoline in Canada are flat, lift, and petrol in the United Kingdom.

RESPECTING PREFERENCES FOR COMMUNICATION STYLE

Business correspondence is often more formal in other countries than it is in Canada and the United States.

Communication style—including the level of directness, the degree of formality, preferences for written versus spoken communication, and other factors—varies widely from culture to culture. Knowing what your communication partners expect can help you adapt to their particular style. Once again, watching and learning is the best way to improve your skills. However, you can infer some generalities by learning more about the culture. For example, Canadian and U.S. workers typically prefer an open and direct communication style; they find other styles frustrating or suspect. Directness is also valued in Sweden as a sign of efficiency; but, unlike discussions in the United States, heated debates and confrontations are unusual. Italian, German, and French executives don’t soften up colleagues with praise before they criticize—doing so seems manipulative to them. However, professionals from high-context cultures, such as Japan or China, tend to be less direct.38 In international correspondence, Canadian and U.S. businesspeople will generally want to be somewhat more formal than they would be when writing to people in their own country. The letter in Figure 3–2 was written by a supplier in Germany to a nearby retailer; you can see how the tone is more formal than would be used in Canada. In Germany, business letters usually open with a reference to the business relationship and close with a compliment to the recipient.

WRITING CLEARLY 5

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

List seven recommendations for writing clearly in multilanguage business environments.

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In addition to learning the preferred style of your communication partners, you can help ensure successful messages by taking extra care with your writing. When sending written communication to businesspeople from another culture, familiarize yourself with their written communication preferences and

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“Business Leader” is the literal translation of Geschäftsführer; a common English translation would be “Managing Director.”

Mister Karl Wieland Business Leader Black Forest Gifts Friedrichstrasse 98 70174 Stuttgart GERMANY

15.5.2017

Very honorable Mister Wieland, The introduction reminds the reader of the ongoing business relationship. Note how the language is a bit more formal (such as “We provide a five-year guarantee...”) than is typical in Canadian and U.S. letters.

The tourist season will soon begin, and we would like to take this opportunity to introduce our new line of hand-carved cuckoo clocks. Last year you were so kind as to purchase two dozen of our clocks. In recognition of our good business relationship we now offer you the opportunity to select from the new models before the line is made available to other purchasers. As you know, our clocks are of superior quality. Our artisans use only the best wood and carefully carve every detail by hand according to time-honoured practices that have been passed down from generation to generation. We test every clock before it is painted and shipped, and we provide a five-year guarantee on all of our Furtwangen hand-crafted clocks.

The writer shows respect for the reader and his business needs.

Enclosed you will find a copy of our newest brochure and an order form. To express our appreciation, we will take over the shipping costs if you order before 15 May 2017. We wish you a lot of success in your new Stuttgart location. We are convinced that you will continue to satisfy your regular clientele with your larger exhibition area and expanded stock and that you will also gain many new visitors.

The complimentary close is typical of German business letters. (Note the lack of punctuation.)

The date is placed to the right and below the address block (note that some German writers use the format 15 May 2017).

With friendly greetings

Frederick Semper

The final paragraph includes a compliment to the recipient.

The signature block does not include a title with the typed name, as Canadian and U.S. letters usually do.

Figure 3–2  Effective German Business Letter (Translated)

adapt your approach, style, and tone to meet their expectations. Follow these recommendations:39 • Choose words carefully. Use precise words that don’t have the potential to confuse with multiple meanings. For instance, the word right has several dozen different meanings and usages, so look for a synonym that conveys the specific meaning you intend, such as correct, appropriate, desirable, moral, authentic, or privilege.40 • Be brief. Use simple sentences and short paragraphs, breaking information into smaller chunks that are easier for your reader to process. • Use plenty of transitions. Help readers follow your train of thought by using transitional words and phrases. For example, tie related points together with expressions such as in addition and first, second, and third. • Address international correspondence properly. Refer to the Canada Post instructions for addressing domestic and international mail at

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74 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

www.canadapost.ca/web/en/kb/details.page?article=addressing_mail_accu& cattype=kb&cat=addressing&subcat=accuracy. You may also want to look at the information on restricted destinations, types of shipments, and observation of custom requirements. • Cite dates and numbers carefully. The Canadian Standards Association has adopted the international standard of year-month-day for dates. Thus, December 5, 2017, is written numerically as 2017–12–05 when following international usage; the arrangement follows the largest element (the year) to the smallest element (the day). However, in practice many Canadian businesses also follow British or U.S. usage and may omit the first two numbers of the year. Consequently, December 5, 2017, may be written 05–12–17, which means 5 December 2017 (British usage) or 12–05–17, which means December 5, 2017 (U.S. usage). Dates in Japan and China typically follow the international standard. You should also be aware of international differences in number formats. For example, 1.000 means one with three decimal places in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain, but it means one thousand in many European countries.

Troy Halford,

This date format is not the format typically used by French writers. The title and address are not formatted in French style.

Canadian Sales Representative 394 Croydon Avenue Winnipeg, MB R2C 0A0 Voice: (204) 555-8924 Fax: (204) 555-3489 [email protected]

April 5, 2017 Mr. Pierre Coll Director of Accounting La Cristallerie 22 Marne Blvd. Beaune, France 21200

Using the reader’s first name is much too informal for most French business correspondence.

Dear Pierre:

The use of slang and idioms throughout the message (such as hammered, bottlenecks, shut – eye, crunch, struck out, and jam) creates the potential for confusion.

I realize that you’ve asked all the reps to reduce rather than increase our expenses, but there were extenuating circumstances this last month. All the bad weather we’ve been having has caused major bottlenecks, with flights cancelled and people forced to sleep in the terminals wherever they could find a spot.

The writer fails to provide a total of the extra expenses.

I know you’ve had gorgeous spring weather, with sunny skies and balmy days. But here in Canada, it’s been a spring of another colour. We’ve been hammered with storms, flooding, and even late snow. Travel over here has been a nightmare, which is why you’ll find my expenses a bit elevated this month.

After being stuck in Montréal-Trudeau Airport for 18 hours straight, I was desperate for a hot shower and some shut-eye, so I decided to wait out the crunch in a hotel. I know that hotels near airports are expensive, but I struck out trying to book a cheaper room in town. The bottom line is I had to spend extra funds for a hotel at $877; meals, which came to some $175; $72 just in transportation from the terminal to the hotel, and extra phone calls totalling $38. I appreciate your understanding these unique circumstances. I was really in a jam. Sincerely,

This unnecessarily dramatic and long description of weather problems wastes the reader’s time.

Important information on costs is buried in a long-winded paragraph.

The closing paragraph focuses on the writer’s needs, not the reader’s.

Troy Halford Canadian Sales Rep Bottom of the letter fails to alert the reader that other documents are enclosed.

Figure 3–3  Ineffective Intercultural Letter

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• Avoid slang, idiomatic phrases, and business jargon. Everyday speech and writing is full of slang and idiomatic phrases—phrases that mean more than the sum of their literal parts. Examples from Canadian and U.S. English include phrases such as “off the top of my head” and “more bang for the buck.” Your audience may have no idea what you’re talking about when you use such phrases. • Avoid humour and other references to popular culture. Jokes and references to popular entertainment usually rely on culture-specific information that might be completely unknown to your audience.

Humour does not “travel well” because it usually relies on intimate knowledge of a particular culture.

Compare the letters shown in Figures 3–3 and 3–4, in which a Canadian is writing to a French business partner to explain why his expenses were unusually high for the previous month. Although some of the differences may seem trivial, meeting the expectations of an international audience illustrates both knowledge of and respect for other cultures.

Troy Halford,

The international date format is preferred in French correspondence. The address block follows French preferences.

Canadian Sales Representative 394 Croydon Avenue Winnipeg, MB R2C 0A0 Voice: (204) 555-8924 Fax: (204) 555-3489

7 April 2017 M. Pierre Coll Commissaire aux Comptes La Cristallerie 22, Boulevard de la Marne 21200 Beaune FRANCE

The formal salutation meets the expectations of French readers.

Dear Monsieur Coll:

The clear and conventional language is easier for non-native English speakers.

In addition to the regular expenses identified in the enclosed report, here are the additional expenditures caused by the weather delay:

By providing a total of the extra expenses, the writer saves the reader valuable time.

Enclosed are my expense statement and receipts for March 2017. My expenses are higher than usual this month because an unexpected snowstorm that closed Montréal-Trudeau Airport left me stranded for nearly five days. I was able to get a hotel for the duration of the storm, although the only room available was far more expensive than my usual accommodations.

Three nights at the Montreal Best Western Hotel Meals over four days Transportation between hotel and terminal Phone calls to reschedule meetings Total extra expenses

If you have any questions or need any more information about these expenses, please contact me. Sincerely,

An enclosure notification alerts the reader to look for additional pages included with the letter.

$ 877 175 72 38 $1162

The main idea is stated directly and clearly in the opening, leaving no room for confusion about the letter’s purpose.

A simple list clearly identifies the extra expenses.

The writer shows respect by closing with an offer to help the reader with any further needs.

Troy Halford Canadian Sales Rep Enclosures: Expense statement and receipts

Figure 3–4   Effective Intercultural Letter

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76 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

6

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

SPEAKING AND LISTENING CAREFULLY

Courtesy of Dalton Pharma Services

Outline strategies for speaking and listening when communicating with people of other cultures

Languages vary considerably in the significance of tone, pitch, speed, and volume, which can create challenges for people trying to interpret the explicit meaning of words themselves as well as the overall nuance of a message. The Speaking clearly and getting plenty of English word progress can be a noun or a verb, depending on which syllable feedback are two keys to successful you accent. In Chinese, the meaning of the word mà changes depending on intercultural conversations. the speaker’s tone; it can mean mother, pileup, horse, or scold. And routine Arabic speech can sound excited or angry to an Englishspeaking North American listener.41 Whether you’re travelling to another country or teaming up with someone who is visiting or immigrating to your country, you’re likely to speak with people whose native language is different from yours. Even when you know the vocabulary and grammar of the other person’s language, the processing of everyday conversations can be difficult. Immigrants with a working knowledge of English would have difficulty understanding that “Jeat yet?” means “Did you eat yet?” and that “Cannahepya?” means “Can I help you?” Some non-native English speakers don’t distinguish between the English sounds v and w, so they say “wery” for “very.” At the same time, Canadians may have trouble Toronto-based Dalton Pharma Services provides on-site ESL pronouncing the German ch. classes, which not only train people in English but also create To be more effective in intercultural conversations, follow cohesive teams. Besides language training, what other methods help people of different cultures form effective teams? these practices: 1. Speak slowly and clearly. 2. Don’t rephrase until it’s obviously necessary (immediately rephrasing something you’ve just said doubles the translation workload for the listener). 3. Look for and ask for feedback to make sure your message is getting through. 4. Don’t talk down to the other person by overenunciating words or oversimplifying sentences. 5. At the end of the conversation, make sure you and the listener agree on what has been said and decided. As a listener, you’ll need some practice to get a sense of vocal patterns. The key is simply to accept what you hear first, without jumping to conclusions about meaning or motivation. Let other people finish what they have to say. If you interrupt, you may miss something important. You’ll also show a lack of respect. If you do not understand a comment, ask the person to repeat it. Any momentary awkwardness you might feel in asking for extra help is less important than the risk of unsuccessful communication.

Blend Images/Alamy Stock Photo

To listen more effectively in intercultural situations, accept what you hear without judgment and let people finish what they have to say.

USING INTERPRETERS, TRANSLATORS, AND TRANSLATION SOFTWARE

Patience and a sense of humour are two helpful assets for overcoming mistakes in intercultural communication. Have you experienced any awkward moments when communicating with someone of another culture? How did you handle them?

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You may encounter business situations that require using an interpreter (for spoken communication) or a translator (for written communication). Interpreters and translators can be expensive, but skilled professionals provide invaluable assistance for communicating in other cultural contexts.42 Some companies use back-translation to ensure accuracy. Once a translator encodes a message into another language, a different translator retranslates the same message into the

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original language. This back-translation is then compared with the original message to discover any errors or discrepancies. A variety of software products and websites offer translation capabilities, from individual words and phrases to documents and entire webpages. Although none of these tools can translate as well as human experts, they can often give you the overall gist of a message.43 To experience this first hand, try the Translation Software Exercise 3.9 at the end of the chapter.

For important business communication, use a professional interpreter (for oral communication) or translator (for written communication).

HELPING OTHERS ADAPT TO YOUR CULTURE Everyone can contribute to successful intercultural communication. Whether a younger person is unaccustomed to the formalities of a large corporation, or a colleague from another country is working on a team with you, look for opportunities to help people fit in and adapt their communication style. For example, if a non-native English speaker is making mistakes that could hurt his or her credibility, you can offer advice on the appropriate words and phrases to use. Most language learners truly appreciate this sort of assistance, as long as it is offered in a respectful manner. Also keep in mind that oral communication in a second language is usually more difficult than written communication; so, instead of asking a foreign colleague to provide detailed information in a conference call, you could ask that colleague to communicate that information in a written response. Moreover, chances are that while you’re helping, you’ll learn something about the other person’s culture and language, too. For a brief summary of ideas on how to improve communication in the workplace, see “Checklist: Improving Intercultural Communication Skills.”

✓Checklist

Help others adapt to your culture; doing so will create a more productive workplace and teach you about their cultures as well.

Improving Intercultural Communication Skills

• Understand your own culture so that you can recognize its influences on your communication habits. • Study other cultures so that you can appreciate cultural variations. • Study the languages of people with whom you communicate, even if you can learn only a few basic words and phrases. • Help non-native speakers learn English. • Respect cultural preferences for communication style.

• Write clearly, using brief messages, simple language, generous transitions, and appropriate international conventions. • Avoid slang, humour, and references to popular culture. • Speak clearly and slowly, giving listeners time to translate your words. • Ask for feedback to ensure successful communication. • Listen carefully and ask speakers to repeat anything you don’t understand. • Use interpreters and translators for important messages.

SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1 Discuss the opportunities and challenges of intercultural communication. Effective intercultural communication offers many opportunities in the global marketplace: because of communication and transportation technologies, businesses small and large can enlarge their customer base and sell their products both at home and abroad. The multicultural workplace offers a broad diversity of opinions and ideas, thus creating more creative companies. Cultural diversity also creates challenges to how business messages are planned, prepared,

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produced, and interpreted: with the broad range of skills and traditions in today’s workplaces, businesspeople must be highly sensitive to how the receivers of their messages interpret language and behaviour.

2 Define culture, and explain how culture is learned. Culture is defined as a shared system of beliefs, attitudes, values, expectations, and norms of behaviour. Culture is learned directly, through explicitly taught acceptable behaviours, and implicitly, through observing the values of your group.

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78 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

3 Define ethnocentrism and stereotyping, and then give three suggestions for overcoming these limiting mindsets. Ethnocentrism is the tendency to judge all other groups according to one’s own standards, behaviours, and customs. Stereotyping is predicting individuals’ behaviour or character on the basis of their membership in a particular group or class. To overcome ethnocentrism, follow these three suggestions: (a) avoid assumptions, (b) avoid judgments, and (c) acknowledge distinctions.

4 Explain the importance of recognizing cultural variations, and list six categories of cultural differences. It is important to recognize cultural variations to avoid communication breakdown and to demonstrate respect to members of other cultures. The six categories of cultural differences are (1) contextual differences, (2) legal and ethical differences, (3) social differences, (4) nonverbal differences, (5) age differences, and (6) gender differences.

5 List seven recommendations for writing clearly in

successful messages across cultures by following these recommendations: (a) choose words carefully; (b) be brief; (c) use plenty of transitions; (d) address international correspondence properly; (e) cite dates and numbers carefully; (f) avoid slang, idiomatic phrases, and business jargon; and (g) avoid humour and other references to popular culture.

6 Outline strategies for speaking and listening when communicating with people of other cultures. When speaking with clients and colleagues from other cultures, be sure to speak at a slow pace and enunciate clearly. Don’t rephrase until it’s obviously necessary. Seek feedback to ensure your audience understands your message. Don’t talk down to the other person. Make sure you and your listener agree on the content of the conversation. As a listener, let the speaker finish what he or she has to say before talking. If you do not understand anything, ask the speaker to repeat it.

multilanguage business environments. You can ensure

ON THE JOB

PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT IBM

Imagine that you are a member of an IBM Corporate Service Corps team working in the host country with a local business. You decide to help the employees improve their communication abilities. How would you address each of these challenges? 1. The employees want to improve their English-speaking ability. How do you help them? a. You ask each employee to prepare a short talk in English on aspects of their work that they will deliver to their colleagues. b. You take the group to a café and have them order food in English and speak English while they are there. c. You pair off the employees and have them prepare scenarios in English, such as job interviews, to present in front of the group. d. From time to time, you invite the group to your temporary apartment where you lead conversations in English. 2. Several of the employees do not make eye contact when delivering speeches because in their culture it is considered rude to make eye contact with other people. How do you persuade them to look at the audience? a. You gently encourage them to make eye contact. You explain that in Canada it is common for businesspeople to make eye contact when giving a presentation, and that people who don’t are not considered effective speakers. b. You don’t discuss the issue with the group at all and let them avoid making eye contact. You believe they will

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understand the importance of eye contact when they give presentations to Canadian businesspeople. c. You show videos about making effective presentations, hoping the group will be encouraged to make eye contact after watching them. d. You set up team presentations, creating teams with employees who are comfortable making eye contact with an audience and those who are not. You expect that while these teams rehearse their presentations, employees who avoid looking at the audience will be persuaded to make eye contact after working with peers who do. 3. One of the employees is an immigrant from another country. He works well alone, but he resists working with others, even in team settings where collaboration is expected. How do you handle the situation? a. Stay out of the way and let the situation resolve itself. The employee has to learn how to get along with the other team members. b. Tell the rest of the team to work harder at getting along with him. c. Tell the employee he must work with others or he will not progress in the company. d. Talk privately with the employee and help him understand the importance of working together as a team. During the conversation, try to uncover why he doesn’t participate more in team efforts.

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TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. How have market globalization and cultural diversity contributed to the increased importance of intercultural communication?

6. Why is it a good idea to avoid slang and idioms when addressing a multicultural audience?

2. Why is cultural competency important?

8. What are some ways to improve oral and listening skills when communicating with people of other cultures?

3. How do high-context cultures differ from low-context cultures? 4. In addition to contextual differences, what other categories of cultural differences exist? 5. What is ethnocentrism? How can it be overcome in communication?

7. When should you use interpreters and translators?

9. What are some ways to improve writing skills when communicating with people of other cultures? 10. What is the purpose of back-translation when preparing a message in another language?

APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. Does a company that has no business dealings outside Canada need to concern itself with intercultural communication issues? Explain your answer. 2. What are some intercultural communication issues to consider when deciding whether to accept an overseas job with a firm whose headquarters are in your own country? A job in your own country with a local branch of a foreign-owned firm? Explain.

3. How do you think company managers from a country that has a relatively homogeneous culture might react when they do business with the culturally diverse staff of a company based in a less homogeneous country? Explain your answer. 4. Why is it important to understand your own culture when attempting to communicate with people from other cultures? 5. How does making an effort to avoid assumptions contribute to the practice of cultural pluralism?

RUNNING CASES > CASE 1  Noreen Noreen is having lunch at the Petro-Go cafeteria. She is sitting with Dan and Karen from her “Go Points” department team. An intern from another country who has been working in Noreen’s department arrives and joins the table. After 10 minutes or so, Noreen’s teammates get up and move to another table. They start giggling and whispering. The intern feels that they are laughing and talking about her because she heard them mention her name, but she is not sure what they are saying. The same afternoon Karen comes to Noreen, her team leader, and asks to speak with her in private. They go to a meeting room. Karen explains that since she moved into the cubicle next to the intern, she has not been happy. She says that the intern has an unusual body odour, and others have noticed it as well.

c. What misunderstandings may be happening? d. Could the intern’s body odour be caused by a medical condition? Could it be the result of the cultural food she eats? e. What can be done to prevent the intern from being rejected by her teammates? f. Review the discussion of stereotyping and the section “Recognizing Cultural Variations.” What additional information could help you turn this communication challenge into an opportunity to build a stronger team? YOUR TASK If you were Noreen, how would you handle this situation? Would you discuss this matter with the intern or ask your manager to do so? What would you say? Partner with a classmate and role play this situation.

QUESTIONS a. What should Noreen do? b. Does Karen have a right to ask to change seats?

> CASE 2  Kwong Kwong is on his way to an interview with A1 Accounting, the company he would like to work at during his co-op placement. Kwong arrives 10 minutes late for his interview because he had written the street name incorrectly in his notes, but the recep-

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tionist takes him into the interview room right away. There are three managers sitting, waiting at a table. They rise and introduce themselves and shake Kwong’s hand. Kwong shakes each interviewer’s hand with a soft, two-handed handshake.

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80 PART I  UNDERSTANDING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

During the interview Kwong shows his respect for the managers by avoiding direct eye contact; instead, he gazes at the floor most of the time. Kwong’s answers to many of the questions are vague and often ambiguous. When Kwong is asked when he would be available to start, he answers by telling the managers what he would do to get started at his job instead of when he could start work. Kwong answers a few other questions similarly, as if he did not hear the question correctly or did not understand it. Kwong does not get the job. QUESTIONS a. Did Kwong communicate well and appear confident during the interview? b. Why do you think Kwong did not get the job? c. What do you think the managers were thinking of Kwong?

d. Why did Kwong answer the questions as if he did not hear them correctly? e. What can Kwong do to improve his skills before the next interview? YOUR TASK In pairs, role play an interview and demonstrate an appropriate introduction, handshake, questions and answers, and closing. Assign your actors a role, such as a woman being interviewed by a man, an older person being interviewed by a younger person, a person using a wheelchair being interviewed by a person not in a wheelchair, or a person from a low-context culture being interviewed by a person from a high-context culture. Have others in the class observe and give feedback on potential problems that may occur and how to handle them.

PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE Your boss wants to write a brief email message welcoming employees recently transferred to your department from your Hong Kong branch. They all speak English, but your boss asks you to review her message for clarity. What would you do to improve this message, given the intended audience—and why? Would you consider this message to be audience centred? Why or why not?

I wanted to welcome you ASAP to our little family here north of the border. It’s high time we shook hands in person and not just across the sea. I’m pleased as punch about getting to know you all, and I for one will do my level best to sell you on Canada.

EXERCISES 3.1 Intercultural Sensitivity: Recognizing Variations You represent a Canadian toy company that’s negotiating to buy miniature truck wheels from a manufacturer in Osaka, Japan. In your first meeting, you explain that your company expects to control the design of the wheels as well as the materials that are used to make them. The manufacturer’s representative looks down and says softly, “Perhaps that will be difficult.” You press for agreement, and to emphasize your willingness to buy, you show the prepared contract you’ve brought with you. However, the manufacturer seems increasingly vague and uninterested. What cultural differences may be interfering with effective communication in this situation? Explain.

them to minimize the chances of misinterpretation. As much as possible, try to retain the tone of the original—although you may find that this is impossible in some instances. Use Google Drive to compile the original selections and your revised versions, then email the documents to your instructor.

3.3 Teamwork: Language and Culture Working with two other students, prepare a list of 10 examples of slang (in your own language) that might be misinterpreted or misunderstood during a business conversation with someone from another culture. Next to each example, suggest other words you might use to convey the same message. Do the alternatives mean exactly the same as the original slang or idiom?

3.2 Intercultural Communication: Writing for Multiple-Language Audiences

3.4 Intercultural Communication: Studying Cultures

With a team assigned by your instructor, review the Facebook pages of five companies, looking for words and phrases that might be confusing to a non-native speaker of English. If you (or someone on the team) is a non-native speaker, explain to the team why those word choices could be confusing. Choose three sentences, headlines, company slogans, or other pieces of text that contain potentially confusing words and rewrite

Choose a specific country, such as India, Portugal, Bolivia, Thailand, or Nigeria, with which you are not familiar. Research the culture and write a brief summary of what a Canadian manager would need to know about concepts of personal space and rules of social behaviour to conduct business successfully in that country.

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3.5 Multicultural Workforce: Bridging Differences

3.9 Internet: Translation Software

Differences in gender, age, and physical abilities contribute to the diversity of today’s workforce. Working with a classmate, role play a conversation in which a. A woman is being interviewed for a job by a male personnel manager b. An older person is being interviewed for a job by a younger personnel manager c. An employee who is a native speaker of English is being interviewed for a job by a hiring manager who is a recent immigrant with relatively poor English skills How did differences between the applicant and the interviewer shape the communication? What can you do to improve communication in such situations?

Explore the powers and limitations of computer translation at BabelFish, www.babelfish.com. In the box labelled “Enter Text,” enter a sentence such as “We are enclosing a purchase order for four dozen computer monitors.” Select “English to Spanish” and click on “Translate” to complete the translation. Once you’ve read the Spanish version, cut and paste it into the “text for translation” box, select “Spanish to English,” and click on “Translate.” Translate the same English sentence into German, French, or Italian and then back into English. How do the results of each translation differ? What are the implications for the use of automated translation services and backtranslation? How could you use this website to sharpen your intercultural communication skills? Summarize your findings in a brief report.

3.6 Intercultural Sensitivity: Understanding Attitudes

3.10 Intercultural Communication: Improving Skills

As the director of marketing for a telecommunications firm based in Germany, you’re negotiating with an official in Guangzhou, China, who’s in charge of selecting a new telephone system for the city. You insist that the specifications be spelled out in the contract. However, your Chinese counterpart seems to have little interest in technical and financial details. What can you do or say to break this intercultural deadlock and obtain the contract so that both parties are comfortable?

3.7 Culture and Time: Dealing with Variations When a company knows that a scheduled delivery time given by an overseas firm is likely to be flexible, managers may buy in larger quantities or may order more often to avoid running out of product before the next delivery. Identify three other management decisions that may be influenced by differing cultural concepts of time, and make notes for a short (twominute) presentation to your class.

3.8 Intercultural Communication: Using Interpreters Imagine that you’re the lead negotiator for a company that’s trying to buy a factory in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Although you haven’t spent much time in the country in the past decade, your parents grew up near Prague, so you understand and speak the language fairly well. However, you wonder about the advantages and disadvantages of using an interpreter anyway. For example, you may have more time to think if you wait for an intermediary to translate the other side’s position. Decide whether to hire an interpreter, and then write a brief (two- or three-paragraph) explanation of your decision.

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You’ve been assigned to host a group of Swedish college students who are visiting your school for the next two weeks. They’ve all studied English, but this is their first trip to your area. Make a list of at least eight slang terms and idioms they are likely to hear on campus. How will you explain each phrase? When speaking with the Swedish students, what word or words might you substitute for each slang term or idiom?

3.11 Intercultural Communication: Podcasting Your company was one of the first to use the Apple iPod and other digital music players as business communication tools. Executives often record messages (such as monthly sales reports) as digital audio files and post them on the company’s intranet site as podcasts. Employees from the 14 offices in Europe, Asia, and North America then download the files to their music players and listen to the messages while riding the train to work, eating lunch at their desks, and so on. Your boss asks you to draft the opening statement for a podcast that will announce a revenue drop caused by intensive competitive pressure. She reviews your script and then hands it back with a gentle explanation that it needs to be revised for international listeners. Improve the following statement in as many ways as you can: Howdy, guys. Shouldn’t surprise anyone that we took a beating this year, given the insane pricing moves our knucklehead competitors have been making. I mean, how those clowns can keep turning a profit is beyond me, what with steel costs still going through the roof and labour costs heating up—even in countries where everybody goes to find cheap labour—and hazardous waste disposal regs adding to operating costs, too.

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4

Planning Business Messages

LEARNING OBJECTIVES  After studying this chapter, you will be able to

1

Describe the three-step writing process

5

List factors to consider when choosing the most appropriate medium for your message

2

Explain why it’s important to define your purpose carefully, and ask four questions that can help you test that purpose

6

Explain why good organization is important to both you and your audience

7

Summarize the process for organizing business messages effectively

3

Describe the importance of analyzing your audience, and identify the six factors you should consider when developing an audience profile

4

Discuss gathering information for simple messages, and identify three attributes of quality information

ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT

MyLab Business Communication  Visit MyLab Business Communication to access a variety of online resources directly related to this chapter’s content.

MaRS DISCOVERY DISTRICT Mentoring Canadian Innovators

Hand-Out/Mars Discovery District/Newscom

www.marsdd.com

MaRS is an exciting centre for innovation in the life sciences, health care, and technology. Communications play a major role in promoting the MaRS mission and maintaining connections among all MaRS stakeholders.

Called one of the world’s largest innovation hubs, the Torontobased MaRS Discovery District links entrepreneurs with the people and resources to help them become market leaders in their fields. Focused on the areas of life sciences and health care, communications and entertainment, clean technology, and social innovation, MaRS provides mentorship, education, and investment connections to eligible innovators. Established in 2006, MaRS has helped more than 1200 clients grow their businesses with the goal of making positive national and global impacts. Emerging science and technology firms can apply to work in the MaRS Incubator, where they are given furnished office space and access to equipped labs and can meet other innovators. Businesses such as banks and law firms may choose to maintain a MaRS presence so they can offer on-site advice about financing and legal matters, such as intellectual property concerns. Since 2006, the MaRS Centre has held more than 10 000 meetings, conferences, and events about such topics as global leadership, the future of medicine, and best practices, further benefiting its tenants as well as outside participants. MaRS online offers a wealth of free educational materials, including Entrepreneurship 101 (a video series about developing a company); educational workbooks on, for example, marketing communications and financing; as well as newsletters and reports. MaRS is a community of professionals, and promoting the MaRS mission and maintaining relationships among its

82

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tenants, clients, and the public requires a variety of professional and personal communication skills. Dealing with both internal and external audiences, MaRS communications managers suggest and write articles for online and print materials, including blogs and the monthly magazine, exploring such topics as innovation, entrepreneurship, science, and technology. The managers collaborate with graphic designers, copy editors, writers, printers, government partners, and internal MaRS stakeholders on communication projects. The job of communications manager also involves research, conducting

interviews, and using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to create awareness of the MaRS organization. Attention to detail, project-management skills, and the abilities to multitask and meet tight deadlines are essential to the performance of this job. If you worked at MaRS, how would you plan messages to different audiences? What essential information would you need? And how would you choose the best channel and medium for communication?1

Understanding the Three-Step Writing Process Like communicators at MaRS, you’ll be creating messages for numerous audiences using written, oral, and digital channels. By following the process introduced in this chapter, you can learn to create successful messages that meet audience needs and highlight your skills as a perceptive business professional. The three-step writing process (see Figure 4–1) helps ensure that your messages are both effective (meeting your audience’s needs and getting your points across) and efficient (making the best use of your time and your audience’s time): 1. Planning business messages. To plan any message, first analyze the situation by defining your purpose and developing a profile of your audience. Once you’re sure what you need to accomplish with your message, gather information that will meet your audience’s needs. Next, select the right medium (oral, written, or electronic) to deliver your message. With those three factors in place, you’re ready to organize the information by defining your main idea, limiting your scope, selecting a direct or an indirect approach, and outlining your content. Planning messages is the focus of this chapter.

1

Planning

Analyze the Situation Define your purpose, and develop an audience profile. Gather Information Determine audience needs, and obtain the information necessary to satisfy those needs. Select the Right Medium Choose the best medium for delivering your message. Organize the Information Define your main idea, limit your scope, select a direct or an indirect approach, and outline your content.

2

Writing

Adapt to Your Audience Be sensitive to audience needs by writing with a “you” attitude, politeness, positive emphasis, and bias-free language. Build a strong relationship with your audience by establishing your credibility and projecting your company’s image. Control your style with a conversational tone, plain English, and appropriate voice. Compose the Message Choose precise language that will help you create effective sentences and coherent paragraphs.

3

1

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe the three-step writing process.

The three-step writing process consists of planning, writing, and completing your messages.

Completing

Revise the Message Evaluate content and review readability, then edit and rewrite for conciseness and clarity. Produce the Message Use effective design elements and suitable layout for a clean, professional appearance. Proofread the Message Review for errors in layout, spelling, and mechanics. Distribute the Message Deliver your message using the chosen medium; make sure all documents and all relevant files are distributed successfully.

Figure 4–1  The Three-Step Writing Process

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84 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

2. Writing business messages. Once you’ve planned your message, adapt to your audience. Be sensitive to your audience’s needs by adopting the “you” attitude, being polite, emphasizing the positive, and using bias-free language. Build strong relationships with your audience by establishing your credibility and projecting your company’s image. Be sure to control your style by using a conversational tone, plain English, and the correct voice. Then, you’re ready to compose your message by choosing precise language, creating effective sentences, and developing coherent paragraphs. Writing business messages is discussed in Chapter 5. 3. Completing business messages. After writing your first draft, revise your message by reviewing the content and organization for overall style, structure, and readability. Then edit and rewrite until your message comes across concisely and clearly, with correct grammar, proper punctuation, and effective format. Next produce your message. Put it into the form that your audience will receive, and review all design and layout decisions for an attractive, professional appearance. Proofread the final draft for typos, spelling errors, and other mechanical problems. Finally, distribute your message using the best combination of personal and technological tools. Completing business messages is discussed in Chapter 6. Throughout this book, you’ll learn how to apply these steps to a wide variety of business messages: short messages such as emails and blog postings (Chapters 7 through 10), longer messages such as reports (Chapters 11 through 13), oral presentations (Chapter 14), and the employment messages you can use to build a satisfying career (Chapters 15 and 16).

OPTIMIZING YOUR WRITING TIME As a starting point, use half your time for planning, one-quarter for writing, and one-quarter for completing your messages.

The more you use the three-step writing process, the more intuitive and automatic it will become. You’ll also get better at allotting your time for each task during a writing project. As a general rule, use roughly half your time for planning— defining your purpose, getting to know your audience, immersing yourself in your subject matter, and working out media selection and organization. Use about onequarter of your time for writing. Reserve the remaining quarter of your time for completing the project so that you don’t short-change important completion steps such as revising, producing, proofreading, and distributing.2 Of course, these time allotments will change significantly depending on the project; for example, if you know your material intimately, the planning step might take less than half your time. However, if you’re including video, photos, and graphical support, the completion step could take far longer than a quarter of your time. Seasoned professionals understand that there is no right or best way to write all business messages. As you work through the writing process presented in this chapter and Chapters 5 and 6, don’t view it as a list of how-to directives but as a way to understand the various tasks involved in effective business writing.3

PLANNING EFFECTIVELY Trying to save time by skimping on planning usually costs you more time in the long run.

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When deadlines loom and assignments pile up, it’s tempting to rush through the planning phase and jump directly into writing. However, trying to save time up front often costs you more time as you struggle to complete a message that wasn’t well thought out. You may also forget important information that leads to more messages being sent out. Even if you have only 20 or 30 minutes to prepare and send a message, work through all three steps quickly to ensure that your time is well used. Analyzing your audience helps you find and assemble the facts they’re looking for and deliver that information in a concise and compelling way. Planning your message reduces indecision as you write and helps eliminate work as you review and revise.

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CHAPTER 4  PLANNING BUSINESS MESSAGES 85

This chapter discusses the planning phase of writing. While this step may seem long and unnecessary, successful writers spend time thinking about each aspect presented below and do not ignore the need to organize messages for their audience. If you do not spend enough time planning, your messages may not be read, or they will leave a bad impression with your audience. As a communicator, it is your job to get messages across as effectively as possible, so carefully follow the points discussed in the remainder of this chapter.

Analyzing the Situation

Minerva Studio/Shutterstock

Step 1 in the Writing Process: Planning

Is creating an online game similar to planning business messages? How does the three-step process apply to this challenging activity?

The planning stage of writing is extremely important. When you first start writing in any new situation, it helps to make an outline, even if the outline consists of bullet points. When you begin working on the exercises at the end of the chapter, carefully review step 1 and begin creating an outline. This will help you organize your information for the messages you will write for this course and in the workplace. Every communication effort takes place in a particular situation, meaning you have a specific message to send to a specific audience under a specific set of circumstances. For example, describing your professional qualifications in an email message to an executive in your own company who understands the company or qualifications jargon differs significantly from describing your qualifications in your LinkedIn profile. The email message is likely to be focused on one specific goal, such as explaining why you would be a good choice to head up a major project, and you have the luxury of focusing on the needs of a single, personally identifiable reader. In contrast, your social networking profile could have multiple goals, such as connecting with your peers in other companies and presenting your qualifications to potential employers, and it might be viewed by hundreds or thousands of readers, each with his or her own needs. The underlying information for these two messages could be roughly the same, but the level of detail to include, the tone of the writing, the specific word choices—these and other choices you need to make will differ from one situation to another. Making the right choices starts with defining your purpose clearly and understanding your audience’s needs.

DEFINING YOUR PURPOSE All business messages have a general purpose: to inform, persuade, or collaborate with an audience. This purpose helps define the overall approach you’ll take, from gathering information to organizing your message. Within the scope of its general purpose, each message also has a specific purpose, which identifies what you hope to accomplish with your message and what your audience should do or think after receiving your message. For example, is your goal simply to update your audience about an event, or do you want them to take immediate action? State your specific purpose as precisely as possible, even identifying which audience members should respond; how they should respond; and when they should respond, by giving an end date. After you have defined your specific purpose, you can decide whether that purpose merits the time and effort required for you to prepare and send the message. Test your purpose by asking four questions:

2

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain why it’s important to define your purpose carefully, and ask four questions that can help you test that purpose.

Your general purpose may be to inform, persuade, or collaborate. Your specific purpose is what you hope to accomplish with your message and what your audience should do or think after receiving your message.

1. Will anything change as a result of your message? Don’t contribute to information overload by sending messages that won’t change events or actions. For

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86 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

example, if you don’t like your company’s latest advertising campaign, but you’re not in a position to influence it, sending a critical message to your colleagues won’t change anything and won’t benefit anyone. 2. Is your purpose realistic? Recognizing whether a goal is realistic is an important part of having good business sense. For example, if you request a raise while the company is struggling, you might send the message that you’re not tuned in to the situation around you. 3. Is the time right? People who are busy or distracted when they receive your message are less likely to pay attention to it. Many professions and departments have recurring cycles in their workloads, so messages sent during peak times might be ignored. 4. Is your purpose acceptable to your organization? Your company’s business objectives may dictate whether a purpose is acceptable. When you are satisfied that you have a clear and meaningful purpose and that this is a smart time to proceed, your next step is to understand the members of your audience and their needs.

DEVELOPING AN AUDIENCE PROFILE 3

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe the importance of analyzing your audience, and identify the six factors you should consider when developing an audience profile.

Ask yourself key questions about your audience to help achieve your purpose.

If audience members have different levels of understanding of the topic, aim your message at the most influential decision makers.

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The more you know about your audience members, their needs, and their expectations, the more effectively you’ll be able to communicate with them. For an example of the kind of information you need to compile in an audience analysis, see the planning sheet in Figure 4–2. Completing a form will help you select the necessary content for your messages, choose the right format, and write using an appropriate tone and style. To conduct an audience analysis: 1. Identify your primary audience. For some messages, certain audience members might be more important than others. Don’t ignore the needs of less influential members, but make sure you address the concerns of the key decision makers. 2. Identify the secondary audience. The secondary audience is composed of people who are given some details of your message—or the entire message itself—by the primary audience. For example, if your message recommends upgrading your department’s computers, your manager might copy your message to the company’s purchasing director, who would have to approve the decision. Although this director is not the person to whom you addressed your memo, she receives the message because she influences your proposal’s outcome. 3. Determine audience composition. Look for both similarities and differences in culture, language, age, education, organizational rank and status, attitudes, experience, motivations, and any other factors that might affect the success of your message. For example, if you’re reporting the results of a market research project, the vice president of sales will probably want to know what’s happening right now. On the other hand, the vice president of communication might be more interested in how the market will look a year or two from now, when that department’s new products will be ready to sell. 4. Gauge audience members’ level of understanding. If audience members share your general background, they’ll probably understand your material without difficulty. If not, your message will need an element of education, and deciding how much information to include can be a challenge. Include only enough information to accomplish the specific purpose of your message. Other material will overwhelm your audience and divert attention from the important points. If the members of your audience have various levels of understanding, gear your coverage to your primary audience (the key decision makers).

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CHAPTER 4  PLANNING BUSINESS MESSAGES 87

Project: A report recommending that we close down the on-site exercise facility and subsidize private memberships at local health clubs.

1

Who is my primary audience?

Nicole Perazzo, vice president of operations

2

Who is my secondary audience?

Nicole’s assistants (Sam, Tammy) James Ngomo, vice president of finance Felice Gonzalez, vice president of human resources

3

What is the size of my audience? What is their location?

Five managers total All managers are located in Halifax

4

What is their level of knowledge?

All will have knowledge of the financial situation, but Felice will not have the budget. (Note: summarize budget details in the report to give Felice the financial context.)

5

What are their expectations and preferences?

All are expecting a firm recommendation, supported by a clear financial rationale. They will also want suggestions for communicating the bad news to employees. (I want to send a hard-copy memo to employees; they may prefer email.)

6

What is the probable reaction?

Staff might first resent the change, but they may prefer going to a full-service health club with personal trainers after the change is fully explained.

Figure 4–2  Audience Analysis Worksheet

5. Understand audience expectations and preferences. Will members of your audience expect complete details or just a summary of the main points? In general, for internal communication, the higher up the organization your message goes, the fewer details people want to see. 6. Forecast probable audience reaction. As you’ll read later in the chapter, audience reaction affects message organization. If you expect a favourable response, you can state conclusions and recommendations up front and offer minimal supporting evidence. If you expect skepticism or resistance, introduce conclusions gradually, with more proof.

Gathering Information When you have a clear picture of your audience and their needs, your next step is to assemble the information that you will include in your message. For simple messages, you may already have all the information at hand, but for more

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4

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Discuss gathering information for simple messages, and identify three attributes of quality information.

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88 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

complex messages you may need to do considerable research and analysis before you’re ready to begin writing. Chapter 11 explores formal techniques for finding, evaluating, and processing information, but you can often use a variety of informal techniques to gather insights and guide your research efforts:

If you’re given a vague request, ask questions to clarify it before you plan a response. If appropriate, include any additional information that might be helpful, even though the requester didn’t specifically ask for it.

• Consider other viewpoints. Putting yourself in someone else’s position helps you consider what that person might be thinking, feeling, or planning. What information do people need to move in the direction you would like them to move? • Read reports and other company documents. Annual reports, financial statements, news releases, blogs, marketing reports, and customer surveys provide helpful information. Find out whether your company has a knowledge management system, a centralized database that collects the experiences and insights of employees throughout the organization. • Talk with supervisors, colleagues, or customers. Fellow workers and customers may have information you need, or they may know what your audience will be interested in. And one of the huge advantages of social media is the ability to quickly locate experts and sources of vital information. • Ask your audience for input. If you’re unsure of what audience members need from your message, ask them. Admitting that you don’t know but want to meet their needs will impress an audience more than guessing and getting it wrong.

UNCOVERING AUDIENCE NEEDS

Courtesy of the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Aboriginal Banking Unit, photo by Colleen Serban Photography, www.colleenserban.com

In many situations your audience’s information needs will be obvious, or readers will be able to tell you what they need. In other situations, though, people may be unable to articulate exactly what is needed. If someone makes a vague or broad request, ask questions to narrow the focus. If your boss says, “Find out everything you can about Interscope Records,” ask which aspects of the company and its business are most important. Asking a question or two often forces the person to think through the request and define more precisely what is required. In addition, try to think of relevant information needs that your audience may not have expressed. Suppose you’ve been asked to compare two health insurance plans for your firm’s employees, but your research has uncovered a third alternative that might be even better. You could then expand your report to include a brief explanation of why the third plan should be considered and compare it with the two original plans. Use judgment; however, in some situations you need to provide only what the audience expects and nothing more.

PROVIDING REQUIRED INFORMATION Published by the Aboriginal Banking department of the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), SOAR magazine includes inspirational stories about Aboriginal youth. How do you think staff develop story ideas for this magazine?

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Once you’ve defined your audience’s information needs, be ready to satisfy those needs completely (see “Promoting Workplace Ethics: How Much

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CHAPTER 4  PLANNING BUSINESS MESSAGES 89

Information Is Enough?” on page 96). One good way to test the thoroughness of your message is to use the journalistic approach: check whether your message answers who, what, when, where, why, and how. Using this test, you can quickly tell whether a message fails to deliver—for example, as does this message requesting information from employees: We are exploring ways to reduce our office space leasing costs and would like your input on a proposed plan in which employees who telecommute on alternate days could share offices. Please let me know what you think of this proposal.

The message fails to tell employees everything they need to know in order to provide meaningful responses. The what could be improved by identifying the specific information points the writer needs from employees (such as whether individual telecommuting patterns are predictable enough to allow scheduling of shared offices). The writer also doesn’t specify when the responses are needed or how the employees should respond. By failing to address such points, the request is likely to generate a variety of responses, some possibly helpful but some probably not.

Test the completeness of your document by ensuring it answers all the important questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

BE SURE THE INFORMATION IS ACCURATE  Inaccurate information communicated in business messages can cause a host of problems, from embarrassment and lost productivity to serious safety and legal issues. Inaccurate information may persist for months or years after you distribute it, or you may commit the organization to promises it isn’t able to keep—and the error could harm your reputation as a reliable businessperson. You can minimize mistakes by double-checking every piece of information you collect. If you consult sources outside the organization, ask yourself whether they are current and reliable. You must be particularly careful when using sources you find online; the simplicity of online publishing and common lack of editorial oversight call for extra care in using online information. Be sure to review any mathematical or financial calculations. Check all dates and schedules, and examine your own assumptions and conclusions to be certain they are valid.

Be certain that the information you provide is accurate and that the commitments you make can be kept.

BE SURE THE INFORMATION IS ETHICAL  By working hard to ensure the accuracy of the information you gather, you’ll also avoid many ethical problems in your messages. If you do make an honest mistake, such as delivering information you initially thought to be true but later found to be false, contact the recipients of the message immediately and correct the error. No one can reasonably fault you in such circumstances, and most people will respect your honesty. Messages can also be unethical if important information is omitted. Of course, as a business professional, you may have legal or other sound business reasons for not including every detail about every matter. Just how much detail should you include? Make sure you include enough detail to avoid misleading your audience. If you’re unsure how much information your audience needs, offer as much as you believe best fits your definition of complete, and then offer to provide more upon request.

Ethics should guide your decisions when determining how much detail to include in your message.

Figure out what points will especially interest your audience, then give those points the most attention.

BE SURE THE INFORMATION IS RELEVANT  When gathering information for your message, remember that some points will be more important to your audience than others. Audience members will appreciate your efforts to prioritize the information they need and filter out the information they don’t. Moreover, by focusing on the information that concerns your audience the most, you increase your chances of accomplishing your own communication goals. TIPS FOR SUCCESS



The most effective writers are those who view what they compose from the reader’s vantage point. Ask yourself, Does the intended reader have your background, your education, and your experience with the subject at hand? If not, adjust your text accordingly.



Ray Dreyfack, systems executive, Fabergé Perfumes, business writer and consultant

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The document uses a graphic to draw the reader’s attention. Note that the colour scheme is the same for the graphic and the visual, so there is a sense of continuity for the reader.

Brief to medium-length paragraphs keep the information accessible and engage the reader.

The document incorporates visual support to represent the concepts in an easy-to-understand manner.

Figure 4–3  Audience-Focused Document (selected pages)

If you don’t know your audience, or if you’re communicating with a large group of people with diverse interests, use common sense to identify points of particular interest. Audience factors such as age, job, location, income, and education can give you a clue. If you’re trying to sell memberships in a health club, you might adjust your message for athletes, busy professionals, families, and people in different locations or in different income brackets. The comprehensive facilities and professional trainers would appeal to athletes, whereas the low monthly rates would appeal to students on tight budgets. As Figure 4–3 shows, your main goal is to tell audience members what they need to know in an accessible format and style. This corporate responsibility document from Royal Bank Financial Group uses formatting features and a question/answer approach for its student audience. Some messages necessarily reach audiences with a diverse mix of educational levels, subject awareness, and other variables. In these cases, your only choice is to try to accommodate the likely range of audience members.

Selecting the Right Medium A medium is the form through which you choose to communicate your message. You may choose to talk with someone face to face, leave a voicemail message, post to a blog, send an email, or create a webcast—and there are many other media to choose from. The range of media possibilities is wide and growing wider all the time. In fact, with so many options now available, selecting the best medium for a given message is itself an important communication skill.

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A numbered list draws attention to specific information.

The FAQ format is used to focus on specific topics.

Figure 4–3  Audience-Focused Document (selected pages) (continued) Courtesy: RBC

Although media categories have become increasingly blurred in recent years, for the sake of discussion, you can think of media as being oral, written, visual, or electronic (which often combines several media types).

ORAL MEDIA Oral media include face-to-face conversations, interviews, speeches, and in-person presentations and meetings. By giving communicators the ability to see, hear, and react to one another, traditional oral media are useful for encouraging people to ask questions, make comments, and work together to reach a consensus or decision. For example, experts recommend that managers engage in frequent “walk-arounds,” chatting with employees to get input, answer their questions, and interpret important business events and trends.4 Of course, if you don’t want a lot of questions or interaction, oral media can be an unwise choice. However, consider your audience carefully before deciding to limit interaction by choosing a different medium. As a manager, you will encounter unpleasant situations (declining an employee’s request for a raise, for example) in which sending an email message or otherwise avoiding personal contact will seem appealing. Avoiding personal interaction in difficult circumstances demonstrates weakness; in many such cases, you owe the other party the

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Oral communication is best when you need to encourage interaction, express emotions, or monitor emotional responses.

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opportunity to ask questions or express concerns. Moreover, facing the tough situations in person will earn you a reputation as an honest, caring manager.

sirtravelalot/Shutterstock

WRITTEN MEDIA Written messages take many forms, from traditional memos to glossy reports that rival magazines in production quality. Memos are brief, printed documents, generally no more than a page long, traditionally used for the routine, day-to-day exchange of information within an organization. In many organizations, social networking, instant messaging (IM), email, blogs, and other electronic media have largely replaced paper memos. Letters are brief, written messages one to two pages long and generally sent The higher you rise in an organization, the more time you spend talking and listening. to recipients outside the organization, Your ability to communicate with people from virtually any background will be key to so in addition to conveying a particuyour success. How can you be a sensitive communicator when you need to communicate bad news orally? lar message, they perform an important public relations function in fostering good working relationships with customers, suppliers, and others. Letters can Nonelectronic written messages have been replaced in many instances by be sent in hard copy or as email attachments. Many organizations save time electronic media, although printed and money on routine communication with form letters, in which a standard messages still have a place in business message is personalized as needed for each recipient. Form letters are particutoday. larly handy for such one-time mass mailings as sales messages about products, information about organizational activities, and goodwill messages such as seasonal greetings. Chapters 8 through 10 discuss memos, letters, IM, and other short-message forms, and Appendix A explains how to format these business documents. Reports and proposals are usually longer than letters and memos, although both can be created in memo or letter format. These documents come in a variety of lengths, ranging from a few pages to several hundred, and are usually fairly formal in tone. Chapters 11 through 13 discuss reports and proposals in detail.

VISUAL MEDIA In some situations, a message that is predominantly visual, with text used to support the illustration, can be more effective than a message that relies primarily on text.

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Although you probably won’t work with many messages that are purely visual (with no text), the importance of visual elements in business communication continues to grow. Traditional business messages rely primarily on text, with occasional support from graphical elements such as charts, graphs, or diagrams to help illustrate points discussed in the text. However, many business communicators are discovering the power of messages in which the visual element is dominant and supported by small amounts of text. For the purposes of this discussion, you can think of visual media as any format in which one or more visual elements play a central role in conveying the message content. Figure 4–4 shows how the message about CRM, customer relationship management (a category of software that helps companies manage their interactions with customers), can be presented more effectively by basing the message on a dominant visual and using text to support that image.

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CHAPTER 4  PLANNING BUSINESS MESSAGES 93

Figure 4–4  Visual Media Courtesy: XPlane

Messages that combine powerful visuals with supporting text, sometimes known as infographics, can be effective for a number of reasons. Audiences are bombarded with messages, so anything that communicates quickly is welcome. Visuals are also effective at describing complex ideas and processes because they can reduce the work required for an audience to identify the parts and relationships that make up the whole. Also, in a multilingual business world, diagrams, symbols, and other images can lower communication barriers by requiring less language processing. Finally, visual images can be easier to remember than purely textual descriptions or explanations. Chapter 12 offers more information on visual design.

ELECTRONIC MEDIA The range of electronic media is broad and continues to grow, from phone calls and podcasts to blogs and wikis to email and text messaging. When you want to make a powerful impression, using electronic media can increase the excitement and visual appeal with interactivity, animation, audio, and video. The growth of electronic communication options is both a blessing and a curse for business communicators. On the one hand, you have more tools than ever before to choose from, with more ways to deliver rational and emotional content. On the other hand, the sheer range of choices can complicate your job because you often need to choose among multiple media, and you need to know how to use each medium successfully. From the audience’s perspective, a common frustration with electronic media is lack of integration, with people being forced to use to an ever-growing arsenal of separate but overlapping media options to stay informed.5 As the options multiply, the struggle to monitor multiple sources of information can consume considerable time and energy. To minimize frustration and maximize productivity, company managers should establish clear expectations for the use of electronic media and carefully integrate—or officially choose not to use—each new media innovation.

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In general, use electronic media to deliver messages quickly, to reach widely dispersed audiences, and to take advantage of rich multimedia formats.

Audiences can get frustrated with the sheer number of electronic media in the workplace.

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You’ll learn more about using electronic media throughout this book (in Chapter 7, in particular), but for now, here is a quick overview of the major electronic media being used in business: • Electronic versions of oral media. These include telephone calls, teleconferencing, voicemail messages, audio recordings such as compact discs and podcasts, voice synthesis (creating audio signals from computer data), voice recognition (converting audio signals to computer data), and even animated online characters. Internet telephony services, such as Skype, that use VoIP (which stands for voice over IP, the Internet protocol) continue to grow in popularity. Although audio-only telephone calls can’t convey all the nonverbal signals of an in-person conversation, they can convey quite a few, including tone of voice, pace, laughter, pauses, and so on. Of course, video phone calls can replace much of the nonverbal content missing from audio calls; 40 percent of Skype’s call volume is video calls.6 • Electronic versions of written media. These options range from email and IM to blogs, websites, social networks, and wikis. These media are in a state of constant change, in terms of both what is available and who tends to use which media. For example, email has been a primary business medium for the past decade or two, but it is being replaced in many cases by IM, blogs, text messaging, and communication via social networks.7 Chapter 7 takes a closer look at email, IM, blogs, and social networks; Chapter 12 discusses wikis in more detail. • Electronic versions of visual media. These choices can include electronic presentations (using Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Drive, Apple Keynote, and other software), computer animation (using software such as Adobe Flash to create many of the animated sequences you see on websites, for example), and video (YouTube quickly became a major business communication channel). Multimedia refers to the use of two or more media to craft a single message, typically some combination of audio, video, text, and visual graphics. Multimedia advances continue to create intriguing communication possibilities, such as augmented reality, in which computer-generated text, graphics, and sounds are superimposed onto a user’s physical reality, either on a device display or directly onto the physical world itself.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING MEDIA 5

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

List factors to consider when choosing the most appropriate medium for your message.

Media range from rich (many cues, simple feedback, personalization) to lean (few information cues, few feedback mechanisms, no personalization).

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In some situations, you have little or no choice of which medium to use. For instance, your department might use IM for all short internal messages and a wiki for longer status reports, and you’ll be expected to use those media as well. In other situations, you’ll have the opportunity to choose the medium (or media) for a particular message. Table 4–1 lists the general advantages and disadvantages of each medium. In addition, be sure to consider how your message is affected by these important factors: • Media richness. Richness is a medium’s ability to (1) convey a message through more than one informational cue (visual, verbal, vocal), (2) facilitate feedback, and (3) establish personal focus. The richest medium is face-toface communication: it’s personal, it provides immediate feedback (verbal and nonverbal), and it conveys the emotion behind a message.8 Multimedia presentations and multimedia webpages are also rich, with the ability to present images, animation, text, music, and sound effects. Many electronic media are also interactive, in that they enable audiences to participate in the communication process. For example, a website can allow visitors to select

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Table 4–1

Media Advantages and Disadvantages

Media Type

Advantages

Disadvantages

Oral

• Provide opportunity for immediate feedback

• Restrict participation to those physically present

• Promote interaction

• Unless recorded, provide no permanent, verifiable record of the communication

• Involve rich nonverbal cues (both physical gestures and vocal inflection)

Written

• In most cases, reduce communicator’s control over the message

• Allow you to express the emotions behind the message

• Other than for messages that are prewritten and rehearsed, offer no opportunity to revise or edit spoken words

• Allow you to plan and control your message

• Offer limited opportunities for timely feedback

• Reach geographically dispersed audiences

• Lack the rich nonverbal cues provided by oral media

• Offer a permanent, verifiable record

• Can require more time and more resources to create and distribute, relative to oral media

• Minimize the distortion that can result with oral and some forms of electronic messages • Can be used to avoid immediate interactions

• Elaborate documents can require special skills in preparation and production

• Can help you control the emotional aspects of an interchange by eliminating interpersonal communication Visual

• Can convey complex ideas and relationships quickly • Often less intimidating than long blocks of text, particularly for non-native readers • Can reduce the burden on the audience to figure out how the pieces of a message or concept fit together

Electronic

• Deliver messages quickly • Reach geographically dispersed audiences • Can offer the persuasive power of multimedia formats • Enable audience interaction through social media features • Can increase accessibility and openness within an organization and between an organization and its external stakeholders

• Can require artistic skills to design • Require some technical skills to create • Can require more time to create than an equivalent amount of text • Are more difficult to transmit and store than simple textual messages • Are easy to overuse (sending too many messages to too many recipients) • Present privacy risks and concerns (exposing confidential data, employer monitoring, accidental forwarding) • Present security risks (viruses and spyware, network breaches) • Create productivity concerns (frequent interruptions, lack of integration among multiple electronic media in use at the same time, and time wasted on nonbusiness uses)

the types of information they want to see, to provide feedback, or to use a variety of online calculators or other tools. At the other extreme are the leanest media—those that communicate in the simplest ways and provide no opportunity for audience feedback (see Figure 4–5). In general, use richer media to send nonroutine or complex messages, to humanize your presence

Leaner: fewer cues, no interactivity, no personal focus

Standard reports Static webpages Mass media Posters & signs

Custom reports Letters & memos Email & IM Wikis Blogs Podcasts

Telephone calls Teleconferencing Video

Face-to-face conversations Multimedia presentations Multimedia webpages Virtual reality

Richer: multiple cues, interactive, personalized

Figure 4–5  Media Richness

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Courtesy: World Voyager Vacations

96 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

throughout the organization, to communicate caring to employees, and to gain employee commitment to company goals. Use leaner media to send routine messages or to transfer information that doesn’t require significant explanation.9 • Message formality. Your media choice is a nonverbal signal that affects the style and tone of your message. For example, a printed memo or letter is likely to be perceived as a more formal gesture than an email message. • Media limitations. Every medium has limitations. For example, IM is ideal for communicating simple, straightforward messages, but it is less effective for sending complex ones. • Urgency. Some media establish a connection with the audience Many websites now feature talking animated figures, faster than others, so choose wisely if your message is urgent. such as avatars, giving website visitors a more enhanced However, be sure to respect audience members’ time and workonline experience. Do these figures serve a meaningful loads. If a message isn’t urgent and doesn’t require immediate purpose? Do they engage potential customers or detract feedback, choose a medium such as email that allows people to from the text and other visuals? respond at their convenience. • Cost. Cost is both a real financial factor and a perceived nonverbal signal. Some media deliver messages faster than others, but instantaneous delivery For example, depending on the context, extravagant (and expensive) video shouldn’t be used to create a false or multimedia presentations can send a nonverbal signal of sophistication sense of urgency. and professionalism—or careless disregard for company budgets. • Audience preferences. Be sure to consider which medium or media your When choosing the appropriate medium, don’t forget to consider your audience expects or prefers.10 For example, businesspeople in Canada, audience’s expectations. the United States, and Germany emphasize written messages, whereas in Japan professionals emphasize oral messages—perhaps because Japan’s high-context culture carries so much of the message in nonverbal cues and “between the lines” interpretation.11

PROMOTING WORKPLACE ETHICS

How Much Information Is Enough?

Imagine that your company creates a variety of home furniture products, with extensive use of fine woods. To preserve the look and feel of the wood, your craftspeople use an oil-based finish that you purchase from a local building products wholesaler. The workers apply the finish with rags, which are thrown away after each project. After a news report about spontaneous combustion of waste rags in other furniture shops, you grow concerned enough to contact the wholesaler and ask for verification of the product’s safety. The wholesaler knows that you’ve been considering a nonflammable, water-based alternative from another source but tries to reassure you with the following email message: Seal the rags in an approved container and dispose of it according to local regulations. As you probably already know, municipal regulations require all commercial users of solvent-based materials to dispose of leftover finishes at the municipality’s hazardous waste facility. You’re still not satisfied. You visit the website of the oil’s manufacturer and find the following cautionary statement about the product you’re currently using:

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Improper disposal of oil-soaked rags and other materials can lead to serious fire hazards. As certain oil-based finishes cure, the chemical reactions that take place can generate enough heat to cause spontaneous combustion of vapors and oil-soaked material. To temporarily store oil-soaked rags and other waste safely, immerse them fully in water in a metal container and close the container with an airtight seal. Dispose of the container in accordance with local regulations. CAREER APPLICATIONS

1. Was the wholesaler guilty of an ethical lapse in this case? If yes, explain what you think the lapse is and why you believe it is unethical. If no, explain why you think the statement qualifies as ethical. 2. Would the manufacturer’s warning be as effective without the second sentence, which explains spontaneous combustion? Why or why not?

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• Accessibility concerns. Many provinces have or are in the process of enacting legislation that must be followed when creating messages so that people with disabilities have equal access to information. For example, if you create a video to send your message, you may need to include subtitles so that people with hearing issues can read your message as well. Make sure you follow the legislation in your province or territory.

Organizing Your Information For anything beyond the simplest messages, organization can make the difference between success and failure. Compare the draft and revision versions of the message in Figure 4–6, in which the writer is requesting the replacement of a faulty DVD drive. The draft version exhibits four of the most common organization mistakes:

Most disorganized communication suffers from problems with clarity, relevance, grouping, and completeness.

1. Taking too long to get to the point. The writer, Jill Saunders, didn’t introduce her topic, the faulty DVD drive, until the second paragraph. Then she waited until the final paragraph to state her purpose: requesting a replacement. Solution: Make the subject and purpose clear, and get to the point without wasting the reader’s time. 2. Including irrelevant material. The first draft is full of irrelevant information: that Nutri-Veg has 3000 stores, that its online presence is growing, and so on. Solution: Include only information that is related to the subject and purpose. 3. Getting ideas mixed up. Saunders tries to make several points: (a) Her company has been a customer for a long time; (b) her company has purchased numerous items at ComputerTime; (c) the DVD drive doesn’t work; and (d) Saunders wants a replacement. However, the ideas are mixed up and located in the wrong places. Solution: Group similar ideas and present them in a logical way, where one idea leads to the next. 4. Leaving out necessary information. ComputerTime may want to know the make, model, and price of the DVD drive; the date of purchase; and the specific problems the device has had. Saunders also failed to say what she wants the store to do: send her a new DVD drive of the same type, send her a different model, or simply refund her money. Solution: Include all the information necessary for the audience to respond as the writer wishes. The revised version corrects all four mistakes, and the result is a much stronger letter. As you’ll see in the following chapters, various types of messages may require different organizational schemes. Nevertheless, in every case you can organize your message in a logical and compelling way by recognizing the importance of good organization, defining your main idea, limiting your scope, choosing either a direct or an indirect approach, and outlining your content.

To organize a message, define your main idea, limit the scope, choose the direct or indirect approach, and group your points.

RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD ORGANIZATION In addition to helping you, good organization helps the members of your audience in three key ways. First, it helps your audience understand your message. In a well-organized message, you make the main point clear at the outset, present additional points to support that main idea, and satisfy all the information needs of the audience. But if your message is poorly organized, your meaning can be obscured and your audiences may form inaccurate conclusions about what you’ve written or said. Second, good organization helps receivers accept your message. If your writing appears confused and disorganized, people will likely conclude that the thinking behind the writing is also confused and disorganized. Moreover,

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6

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain why good organization is important to both you and your audience.

Poor organization can waste time, reduce efficiency, and damage relationships. Good organization helps audience members understand your message, accept your message, and save time.

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ft Dra

Defective DVD recorder (HTML) [email protected] Defective DVD recorder

Nutri-Veg has been doing business with ComputerTime since I was hired six years ago. Our company has 3000 retail stores throughout North America. We are the largest retailer globally of nutritional products, such as vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements. Our customers are served by salespeople who use our products and receive extensive training. Our online store continues growing in popularity.

The opening fails to explain the purpose of the message and immediately gets bogged down in irrelevant details.

Our department now has 15 employees. As accountants, we need to have our computers working so that we can do our jobs. The DVD recorder we bought for my assistant, Suzanne, has been a problem. We’ve taken it in for repairs three times in three months to the authorized service centre, and Suzanne is very careful with the machine and hasn’t abused it. After all those repairs, it still doesn’t work right, and she’s tired of hauling it back and forth. We’re all putting in longer hours because it is our busy season, and none of us has a lot of spare time.

The writer waits until the second paragraph to even introduce the main idea.

This is the first time we’ve returned anything to your store, and I hope you’ll agree that we deserve a better deal.

The closing fails to specify what she wants the reader to do.

This meandering story fails to provide specific information about the problem.

on

isi Rev

Defective DVD recorder (HTML) [email protected] Defective DVD recorder: request for replacement

Dear Customer Service Representative:

The body of the message provides enough details to help the reader understand why Saunders thinks a problem exists.

Can you please exchange the faulty DVD record/play drive (Olympic Systems, Model PRS-2) that Nutri-Veg purchased on November 15, 2019? The drive began malfunctioning soon after my assistant installed it on her computer (an HP Compaq dc5100), and we’ve had trouble with it ever since.

The writer opens with her request and immediately follows that with relevant details.

We took the drive to the authorized service centre and were assured that the problem was merely a loose connection. The service representative fixed the drive, but in April we had to have it fixed again—another loose connection. For the next three months, the drive worked reasonably well, although the recording time was occasionally slow. Two months ago, the drive stopped working again. Once more, the service representative blamed a loose connection and made the repair. The drive is again operational, but it occasionally makes odd noises and takes an inordinate amount of time to record a disc.

This clear chronology provides a detailed history of the problem so that the reader clearly understands her frustration.

Although all the repairs have been relatively minor and have been covered by the one-year warranty, we are not satisfied with the drive. We would like to exchange it for a similar model from another manufacturer.

The closer requests a specific action from the reader.

Nutri-Veg has done business with your store for six years, and we look forward to purchasing from you in the future after this matter is resolved successfully. Please let us know your answer by September 20. Sincerely, Jill Saunders Accounting Supervisor

The closing emphasizes (in a calm, respectful way) that Nutri-Veg won’t be buying anything else until this problem is resolved.

Figure 4–6  Email Message with Improved Organization

effective messages often require a bit more than simple, clear logic. A diplomatic approach helps receivers accept your message, even if it’s not exactly what they want to hear. In the case of ComputerTime’s response to Jill Saunders’s request for a replacement product from a different manufacturer, ComputerTime isn’t able to do exactly what Saunders requested (they’ve arranged a replacement from the same manufacturer instead). Consequently, the response letter from Linda Davis has a negative aspect to it, but the style of the letter is tactful and positive (see Figure 4–7).

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re: Defective DVD recorder: request for replacement (HTML)

[email protected] Defective DVD recorder: request for replacement

Dear Ms. Saunders: Davis acknowledges receipt of Saunders’s letter and sympathizes with her frustration.

Davis invites further communication if necessary.

Thank you for letting us know about your experience with the Olympic DVD drive you bought last November. We’re sorry to hear that the product didn’t perform correctly. As you may know, merchandise returned to ComputerTime within 30 days is covered by the unconditional refund policy that has been our tradition for 22 years. While your drive is outside that 30-day window, it is still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. To save you additional correspondence, I contacted Olympic on your behalf. They’ve agreed to send you their latest DVD model, which they assure me will give you optimum performance every time. If this is not a satisfactory solution or you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly. In the meantime, I’d like to invite you to visit during our upcoming November sale, which will feature great prices on a wide range of computers and accessories.

Davis subtly lets Saunders know that she could have returned the item immediately, but doesn’t criticize her for not doing so.

Davis shows that the company took responsibility for the customer’s problem and takes steps to repair the customer relationship.

Davis encourages future purchasing.

Sincerely, Linda Davis Customer Service

Figure 4–7  Message Demonstrating a Diplomatic Organization Plan

Third, good organization saves your audience time. Well-organized messages are efficient. They contain only relevant ideas, and they are brief. Moreover, each piece of information is located in a logical place in the overall flow; each section builds on the one before to create a coherent whole, without forcing people to look for missing pieces. In addition to saving time and energy for your readers, good organization saves you time and consumes less of your creative energy. Writing moves more quickly because you don’t waste time putting ideas in the wrong places or composing material that you don’t need. You spend far less time rewriting, trying to extract sensible meaning from disorganized rambling. Finally, organizational skills are good for your career because they help you develop a reputation as a clear thinker who cares about your readers.

DEFINING YOUR MAIN IDEA The topic of your message is the overall subject, and your main idea is a specific statement about that topic (see Table 4–2). For example, if you believe that the current system of using paper forms for filing employee insurance claims is expensive and slow, you might craft a message in which the topic is employee insurance claims and the main idea is that a new web-based claim-filing system would reduce costs for the company and reduce reimbursement delays for employees. In longer documents and presentations, you often need to unify a mass of material, so you’ll need to define a main idea that encompasses all the individual points you want to make. Finding a common thread through all these points can be a challenge. Sometimes you won’t even be sure what your main idea is until

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7

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Summarize the process for organizing business messages effectively.

The topic is the overall subject; the main idea is a specific statement about the topic.

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Table 4–2

Defining the Topic and Main Idea

General Purpose

Specific Purpose

Topic

Main Idea

To inform

Teach customer service representatives how to file insurance claims.

Insurance claims

Proper filing saves the company time and money.

To persuade

Convince top managers to increase spending on research and development.

Funding for research and development

Competitors spend more than we do on research and development.

To collaborate

Acquire technology and sales figures to devise a computer program that tracks sales by geographical region.

Sales

Using a computer program that tracks sales by region will easily highlight geographical areas that need improved representation of products.

you sort through the information. For especially challenging assignments like these, consider a variety of techniques to generate creative ideas: • Brainstorming. Working alone or with others, generate as many ideas and questions as you can, without stopping to criticize or organize. After you capture all these pieces, look for patterns and connections to help identify the main idea and the groups of supporting ideas. If your assignment is to find a way to increase sales, for example, you might find a cluster of ideas relating to new products, another relating to advertising strategies, and another related to pricing. Identifying such clusters helps you see the major issues and determine the most important idea. • Journalistic approach. Introduced earlier in the chapter, the journalistic approach asks who, what, when, where, why, and how questions to distill major ideas from piles of unorganized information. • Question-and-answer chain. Start with a key question, from the audience’s perspective, and work back toward your message. Ask yourself: “What is the audience’s main question? What do audience members need to know?” Write down and examine your answers. As additional questions emerge, write down and examine those answers. Follow the chain of questions and answers until you have replied to every conceivable question that might occur to your audience. By thinking about your material from your audience’s perspective, you are likely to define your main idea. • Storyteller’s tour. Some writers find it best to talk through a communication challenge before they write. Pretend you’re giving a colleague a guided tour of your message and record what you say. Then listen to your talk, identify ways to tighten and clarify the message, and repeat the process. Working through this recording several times will help you distill the main idea down to a single, concise message. • Mind mapping. You can generate and organize ideas using a graphic method called mind mapping. It is a helpful technique for identifying and organizing the many ideas and pieces of information that a complex writing task usually entails. Software (MindJet’s MindManager in Figure 4–8) makes it easy to create graphical output, which shows the writer’s own concerns about a report, her insights into the audience’s concerns, and several issues related to writing and distributing the report. You can find a number of free mind mapping tools online, including https://bubbl.us/.

LIMITING YOUR SCOPE The scope of your message is the range of information you present, the overall length, and the level of detail—all of which need to correspond to your main

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CHAPTER 4  PLANNING BUSINESS MESSAGES 101 This branch identifies points that are potentially important to the target audience.

This branch identifies points that are potentially important to the writer.

Are all the good sites taken in Calgary? If any available, how expensive? Better brokers? Willing to pay more?

Why does StarMarkets always get the best locations?

Audience concerns

My concerns

Convey my team’s contribution without looking like we’re boasting

Corrected financial assumptions Streamlined broker selection process

Site research still takes too long—how to explain?

Is Calgary market viable if we can’t get 10 good locations? Revenue potential at six sites leased so far?

Lower-level branches divide and subdivide each information point to isolate individual questions and issues. I don’t have time to write entire report Complaints about lack of detail in reports

Brainstorming: Report on new store site analysis

Writing issues

Report distribution issues

This branch identifies concerns about the writing process (separate from the content of the report itself).

Highly confidential—can’t be emailed Can we present at board meeting?

This branch identifies another set of process issues, those related to how the report will be distributed.

Figure 4–8  Using the Mind-Mapping Technique to Plan a Writing Project

idea. For a report outlining your advice on whether to open a new restaurant in Calgary, your message, including all supporting evidence, needs to focus on that question alone. Your plan for new menu selections and your idea for a new source of financing both would be outside the scope of your message. Whatever the length of your message, limit the number of major support points to half a dozen or so—and if you can get your idea across with fewer points, all the better. Listing 20 or 30 support points might feel as if you’re being thorough, but your audience will view such detail as rambling and mind numbing. Instead, look for ways to group supporting points under major headings, such as finance, customers, competitors, employees, or whatever is appropriate for your subject. Just as you might need to refine your main idea, you may also need to refine your major support points so that you have a smaller number with greater impact. The number of words, pages, or minutes you need to communicate and support your main idea depends on your topic, your audience members’ familiarity with the material, their receptivity to your conclusions, and your credibility. You’ll need fewer words to present routine information to a knowledgeable audience that already knows and respects you. You’ll need more words to build a consensus about a complex and controversial subject, especially if the members of your audience are skeptical or hostile strangers.

Limit the number of support points; having fewer strong points is a better approach than using many weak points.

CHOOSING BETWEEN DIRECT AND INDIRECT APPROACHES After you’ve defined your ideas, you’re ready to decide on the sequence you will use to present your points. You have two basic options: • Direct approach. When you know your audience will be receptive to your message, use a direct approach: start with the main idea (such as a recommendation, a conclusion, or a request) and follow that with your supporting evidence. • Indirect approach. When your audience will be skeptical about or even resistant to your message, use an indirect approach: start with the evidence first and build your case before presenting the main idea.

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Use a direct approach if the audience’s reaction is likely to be positive and the indirect approach if it is likely to be negative.

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102 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

To choose between these two alternatives, analyze your audience’s likely reaction to your purpose and message. Bear in mind, however, that each message is unique. No simple formula will solve all your communication problems. For example, although an indirect approach may be best when you’re sending bad news to outsiders, if you’re writing a memo to an associate you may want to get directly to the point, even if your message is unpleasant. The direct approach might also be a good choice for long messages, regardless of your audience’s attitude—because delaying the main idea could cause confusion and frustration. Figure 4–9 summarizes how your approach may differ depending on the likely audience reaction. The type of message also influences the choice of a direct or indirect approach.

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ROUTINE AND POSITIVE MESSAGES The most straightforward business messages are routine and positive ones. If you’re inquiring about products or placing an order, your audience will usually want to comply. If you’re announcing a price cut, granting an adjustment, accepting an invitation, or congratulating a colleague, your audience will most likely be pleased to hear from you. If you’re providing routine information as part of your regular business, your audience will probably be neutral, neither pleased nor displeased. Aside from being easy to understand, routine messages are easy to prepare. In most cases you use the direct approach. In the opening, you state your main idea directly, without searching for some creative introduction. By starting off with your positive idea, you emphasize the pleasing aspect of your message. You put your audience in a good frame of mind and encourage them to be receptive to whatever else you have to say. The body of your message can then provide all necessary details. The close should be cordial and emphasize your good news or make a statement about the specific action desired. Routine and positive messages are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 8.

Indirect Approach

Direct Approach Audience Reaction

Eager/interested/ pleased/neutral

Displeased

Uninterested/unwilling

Message Opening

Start with the main idea, the request, or the good news.

Start with a neutral statement that acts as a transition to the reasons for the bad news.

Start with a statement or question that captures attention.

Message Body

Provide necessary details.

Give reasons to justify a negative answer. State or imply the bad news, and make a positive suggestion.

Arouse the audience’s interest in the subject. Build the audience’s desire to comply.

Message Close

Close with a cordial comment, a reference to the good news, or a statement about the specific action desired.

Close cordially.

Request action.

Figure 4–9  Choosing between the Direct and Indirect Approaches

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NEGATIVE MESSAGES  Unfortunately, being a business communicator also means you’ll face situations in which you need to deliver bad news. Because your audience will be disappointed, these messages usually benefit from the indirect approach—putting the evidence first and building up to the main idea. This approach strengthens your case as you go along, not only making the receiver more receptive to the eventual conclusion but also treating the receiver in a more sensitive manner, which helps you retain as much goodwill as possible. Astute businesspeople know that every person they encounter could be a potential customer, supplier, or contributor or could influence someone who is a customer, supplier, or contributor. Successful communicators take extra care with their negative messages. They often open with a neutral statement that is related to the main idea and that acts as a transition to the reasons for the bad news. In the body, they give the reasons that justify the negative answer, announcement, or information before they state or imply the bad news. And they are always careful to close cordially. The challenge of negative messages lies in being honest but kind. You don’t want to sacrifice ethics and mislead your audience, nor do you want to be overly blunt. To achieve a good mix of candour and kindness, focus on some aspect of the situation that makes the negative news a little easier to take. Keep in mind that the indirect approach is neither manipulative nor unethical. As long as you can be honest and reasonably brief, you’re often better off opening a bad-news message with a neutral point and putting the negative information after the explanation. Then, if you can close with something fairly positive, your audience may feel able to tolerate the situation—they may not like it, but they may not be hostile either (which is often all you can hope for when you must deliver bad news). Negative messages are discussed further in Chapter 9. PERSUASIVE MESSAGES  Persuasive messages present a special communication challenge because you’re asking your audience to give, do, or change something, whether it’s contributing to a charity, buying a product, or changing a belief or an attitude. Professionals who specialize in persuasive messages such as sales letters and other advertising spend years perfecting their craft, and the best practitioners command salaries on a par with some high-ranking executives. You might not have the opportunity to take your skills to that level, but you can learn some basic techniques to improve your own persuasive messages. Before you try to persuade people to do something, capture their attention and get them to consider your message with an open mind. Make an interesting point and provide supporting facts that encourage your audience to continue paying attention. In most persuasive messages, the opening mentions a reader benefit, refers to a problem that the recipient might have, poses a question, or mentions an interesting statistic. Then the body builds interest in the subject and arouses audience members’ desire to comply. Once you have them thinking, you can introduce your main idea. The close is cordial and requests the desired action. Persuasive messages are discussed at greater length in Chapter 10.

If you have bad news, try to put it somewhere in the middle, cushioned by other more positive ideas.

Using the indirect approach allows you to get your message across to an uninterested or skeptical audience.

Persuasive messages can be challenging because you’re generally asking your audience to give up something, such as time, money, power, and so on.

OUTLINING YOUR CONTENT After you have chosen the right approach, it’s time to figure out the most logical and effective way to present your major points and supporting details. Get into the habit of creating outlines when you’re preparing business messages. You’ll save time, get better results, and do a better job of navigating through complicated business situations. Even if you’re just jotting down three or four key points, making an outline will help you organize your thoughts for faster writing. When you’re preparing a longer, more complex message, an outline is indispensable because it helps you visualize the relationships among the various parts.

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A good way to visualize how all the points will fit together is to construct an outline.

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104 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

ALPHANUMERIC OUTLINE I. First Major Point A. First subpoint B. Second subpoint 1. Evidence 2. Evidence a. Detail b. Detail 3. Evidence C. Third subpoint II. Second Major Point A. First subpoint 1. Evidence 2. Evidence B. Second subpoint

DECIMAL OUTLINE I.0 First Major Point 1.1 First subpoint 1.2 Second subpoint 1.2.1 Evidence 1.2.2 Evidence 1.2.2.1 Detail 1.2.2.2 Detail 1.2.3 Evidence 1.3 Third subpoint 2.0 Second Major Point 2.1 First subpoint 2.1.1 Evidence 2.1.2 Evidence 2.2 Second subpoint

Figure 4–10  Two Common Outline Forms

The basic outline formats shown in Figure 4–10 (1) use numbers or numbers and letters to identify each point and (2) indent points to show which ideas are of equal status. An effective outline divides a topic into at least two parts, restricts each subdivision to one category, and ensures that each group is separate and distinct (see Figure 4–11). These outlines are especially useful for longer documents, such as reports. Another way to visualize the outline of your message is to create an “organization chart” similar to the charts used to show a company’s management structure (see Figure 4–12). The main idea is shown in the highest-level box and, like a top executive, establishes the big picture. The lower-level ideas, like lower-level employees, provide the details. All the ideas are logically organized into divisions of thought, just as a company is organized into divisions and departments.12 Using a visual chart instead of a traditional outline has many benefits. Charts help you (1) see the various levels of ideas and how the parts fit together, (2) develop new ideas, and (3) restructure your information flow. The mind-mapping technique used to generate ideas works in a similar way.

You may want to experiment with other organizational schemes in addition to traditional outlines.

RIGHT:

I.

WRONG:

Alternatives for Improving Profits A. Increasing sales 1. Internet advertising 2. Radio advertising B. Reducing production costs 1. Modernizing plants 2.

I.

Alternatives for Improving Profits A. Increasing sales 1. Internet advertising B. Reducing production costs 1. Modernizing plants 2. Using more off-shore labour

Using more off-shore labour

When dividing a topic in an outline, be sure to divide it into at least two parts. A topic cannot be divided into only one part. In the second (wrong) example, subtopic A is divided only once. Either the writer hasn’t developed her ideas sufficiently or has only one idea (Internet advertising) for increasing sales. If she has only one idea for increasing sales, then that idea should be subtopic A (A. Increasing Internet sales). Figure 4–11  Topic Division in Outlines

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CHAPTER 4  PLANNING BUSINESS MESSAGES 105

Main Idea

I. Major point

A. Evidence

B. Evidence

II. Major point

A. Evidence

B. Evidence

III. Major point

C. Evidence

A. Evidence

B. Evidence

Figure 4–12  Organization Chart Method for Outlining

Whichever outlining or organizing scheme you use, start your message with the main idea, follow that with major supporting points, and then illustrate these points with evidence. START WITH THE MAIN IDEA  The main idea helps you establish the goals and general strategy of the message, and it summarizes two vital considerations: (1) what you want your audience to do or think and (2) why they should do so. Everything in your message either supports the main idea or explains its implications. As discussed earlier in this chapter, some messages state the main idea quickly and directly, whereas other messages delay the main idea until after the evidence is presented. STATE THE MAJOR POINTS  You need to support your main idea with the major points that clarify and explain your ideas in more concrete terms. If your purpose is to inform and the material is factual, your major points might be based on something physical or financial—something you can visualize or measure, such as activities to be performed, functional units, spatial or chronological relationships, or parts of a whole. When you’re describing a process, the major points are almost inevitably steps in the process. When you’re describing an object, the major points correspond to the parts of the object. When you’re giving a historical account, major points represent events in the chronological chain. If your purpose is to persuade or to collaborate, select major points that develop a line of reasoning or a logical argument that proves your central message and motivates your audience to act.

Major supporting points clarify your main idea.

PROVIDE EXAMPLES AND EVIDENCE  After you’ve defined the main idea and identified major supporting points, think about examples and evidence that can confirm, illuminate, or expand on your supporting points. Choose examples and evidence carefully so that these elements support your overall message without distracting or overwhelming your audience. For example, if you’re advocating that your company increase its advertising budget, you can support your major point by providing evidence that your most successful competitors spend more on advertising than you do. You can also describe a case in which a particular competitor increased its ad budget and achieved an impressive sales gain. Then you can show that over the past five years, your firm’s sales have gone up and down in response to the amount spent on advertising. If you’re developing a long, complex message, you may need to carry the outline down several levels. Remember that every level is a step along the chain from the abstract to the concrete, from the general to the specific. The lowest level contains the evidence, the individual facts and figures that tie the generalizations to the observable, measurable world. The higher levels are the concepts that reveal why those facts are significant.

Back up your supporting points with carefully selected examples and evidence.

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You can divide major points according to physical relationships, the description of a process, the components of an object, or a historical chronology.

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Each major point must be supported with enough specific evidence to be convincing, but not so much that your message becomes long and boring.

Table 4–3

Up to a point, the more evidence you provide, the more conclusive your case will be. If your subject is complex and unfamiliar, or if your audience is skeptical, you’ll need a lot of facts and figures to demonstrate your points. On the other hand, if your subject is routine and your audience is positively inclined, you can be more sparing with the evidence. You want to provide enough support to be convincing but not so much that your message becomes boring or inefficient. Another way to keep your audience interested is to vary the type of detail you include. As you draft your message, incorporate the methods described in Table 4–3. Employ both facts and figures in narrative sections, add relevant description, and include some examples or a reference to authority. Where appropriate, reinforce details with visual aids. A variety of approaches adds richness and meaning to the whole. If your schedule permits, put aside your outline for a day or two before you begin composing your first draft. Then review it with a fresh eye, looking for opportunities to improve the flow of ideas. For a summary of the planning tasks involved in preparing your messages, see “Checklist: Planning Business Messages.”

Six Types of Detail

Type of Detail

Example

Comment

Facts and figures

Sales are strong this month. We have two new contracts worth $5 million and a good chance of winning another worth $2.5 million.

Adds more credibility than any other type. Can become boring if used excessively. Most common type used in business.

Example or illustration

We’ve spent four months trying to hire recent accounting graduates, but so far only one person has joined our firm. One candidate told me that she would love to work for us, but she can get $5000 more a year elsewhere.

Adds life to a message, but one example does not prove a point. Idea must be supported by other evidence as well.

Description

Upscale hamburger restaurants target burger lovers who want more than the convenience and low prices of McDonald’s. These places feature wine and beer, half-pound burgers, and generous side dishes (nachos, potato skins). “Atmosphere” is key.

Helps audience visualize the subject by creating a sensory impression. Does not prove a point but clarifies it and makes it memorable. Begins with overview of function; defines its purpose, lists major parts, and explains how it operates.

Narration

Under former management, executives worked in blue jeans, meetings rarely started on time, and lunches ran long. When Jim Wilson became CEO, he completely overhauled the operation. A Queen’s MBA who favours custom-tailored suits, Wilson has cut the product line in half and chopped $12 million off expenses.

Works well for attracting attention and explaining ideas but lacks statistical validity.

Reference to authority

I discussed this idea with Jackie Loman in the Sudbury plant, and she was very supportive. As you know, Jackie has been in charge of that plant for the past six years. She is confident that we can speed up the number 2 line by 150 units an hour if we add another worker.

Bolsters a case while adding variety and credibility. Works only if “authority” is recognized and respected by the audience.

Visual aids

Graphs, charts, tables

Helps audience grasp specific data. Used more in memos and reports than in letters.

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✓Checklist

Planning Business Messages

A. Analyze your situation. • Determine whether the purpose of your message is to inform, persuade, or collaborate. • Identify what you want your audience to think or do. • Make sure your purpose is worthwhile and realistic. • Make sure the time is right for your message. • Make sure the right person is delivering your message. • Make sure your purpose is acceptable to your organization. • Identify the primary audience. • Identify the secondary audience. • Determine audience size and composition. • Estimate your audience’s level of understanding and probable reaction to your message.

• Find out what your audience wants to know. • Provide all required information and make sure it’s accurate, ethical, and pertinent. C. Select the best medium for your message. • Understand the advantages and disadvantages of oral, written, and electronic media. • Consider media richness, message formality, media limitations, urgency, cost, and audience preferences. D. Organize your information. • Define your main idea. • Limit your scope. • Choose a direct or indirect approach. • Outline content by starting with the main idea, adding major points, and illustrating with evidence.

B. Gather information. • Decide whether to use formal or informal techniques for gathering information.

SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1 Describe the three-step writing process.  First, plan-

message. It also helps you know what to include in your message and how to include it. To develop an audience profile, determine your primary audience (key decision makers), your secondary audience, audience composition, your audience’s level of understanding, audience expectations and preferences, and the audience’s probable reaction.

ning consists of analyzing your purpose and developing a profile of your audience, gathering information (whether formally or informally), selecting the right medium, and organizing the information. Second, writing consists of adapting your message to your audience and composing the words, sentences, and paragraphs that form your message. Third, completing your message consists of revising your message by evaluating content and then rewriting and editing for clarity; producing your message by using effective design elements; proofreading your message for typos, spelling errors, and mechanics; and distributing your message.

4 Discuss gathering information for simple messages, and

2 Explain why it’s important to define your purpose

5 List factors to consider when choosing the most

carefully, and ask four questions that can help you test that purpose.  You must know enough about the purpose of your message to shape that message in a way that will achieve your goal. To decide whether you should proceed with your message, ask four questions: (a) Will anything change as a result of my message? (b) Is my purpose realistic? (c) Is the time right? (d) Is my purpose acceptable to my organization?

3 Describe the importance of analyzing your audience, and identify the six factors you should consider when developing an audience profile.  Analyzing your audience helps you predict how your audience will react to your

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identify three attributes of quality information.  You can collect relevant information informally by considering others’ viewpoints, browsing through company files, chatting with supervisors or colleagues, or asking your audience for input. You can test the quality of your information by checking whether it is accurate, ethical, and pertinent. appropriate medium for your message. Media richness, the value of a medium for communicating a message, is a factor to consider for message transmission. Richness is determined by the medium’s ability to (a) convey a message using more than one informational cue (visual, verbal, vocal), (b) facilitate feedback, and (c) establish personal focus. Other factors to consider when selecting a medium (or media) include the message’s formality, media limitations, urgency, cost, and audience preferences.

6 Explain why good organization is important to both you and your audience.  Audiences benefit from good

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108 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

organization in several ways. A well-organized message saves your audience time, because they don’t have to reread a message to make sense of it. They are also better able to understand the content, so they can accept the message more easily and can make better decisions based on its information. Communicators also benefit from good organization: well-organized messages consume less creative energy and speed the drafting stage.

7 Summarize the process for organizing business messages effectively.  The process for organizing messages

ON THE JOB

effectively has four parts. First, define the main idea of the message by making a specific statement about the topic. Second, limit the scope of the message by adjusting the space and detail you allocate to major points. Third, choose either a direct or an indirect approach by anticipating the audience’s reaction to the message and by matching the approach to message length and message type. Fourth, group the points by constructing an outline to visualize the relationship between the ideas and the supporting material.

PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT MARS

You have been hired as a summer intern in the MaRS communication department. Use what you’ve learned in this chapter to solve the following situations, and be prepared to explain why your choice is best: 1. You have been asked to contribute content to the MaRS Facebook page. Your supervisor has not given you any specific direction, but has left it up to you to decide on the content itself. Of the following, select the best choice for dealing with this task: a. You approach the task by reviewing the activities of all MaRS tenants within the past five days. b. You approach the task by reviewing the activities of MaRS tenants operating within a specific field, such as health care, within the past five days. c. You decide to focus only on reviewing upcoming conferences that will be held at MaRS. d. You decide to focus only on providing related links of interest through the MaRS Facebook page. 2. Assume that you decided to profile one of MaRS Incubator’s tenants on the Facebook page. How do you approach creating this post? a. You decide only to interview the tenant. That will give you enough information. b. You decide to interview the tenant and do research on the tenant’s area of interest. This will give you informa-

tion about the tenant and provide a context for the tenant’s field. c. You decide only to take photographs of the tenant’s offices and labs and post them with a short comment about the tenant. This will be appealing because it is visual. d. You decide to take photographs and include a mediumlength piece about the tenant. This will be effective because it is both visual and descriptive. 3. When creating your piece about a MaRS tenant, you need to determine your audience. Who is it and how does it affect the writing style of your posting? a. You determine that the audience will be only people who work in the MaRS Incubator. Thus your posting will be written in a style that includes a lot of technical terms. b. Your audience will mainly be people connecting to the MaRS Facebook page through links. Thus your posting will be written in both a technical and an explanatory style. c. The sole audience will be people working in all areas of MaRS. Thus your writing style will be technical, as you believe all people who work at MaRS have a technical background. d. Your audience will be all of MaRS stakeholders and people who connect to the MaRS Facebook page through the MaRS website. Thus your posting will be written in completely accessible language.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. What are the three steps in the writing process?

6. How do you choose the medium for your message?

2. What types of purposes do all business messages have?

7. How does the audience benefit from a well-organized message?

3. What do you need to know to develop an audience profile? 4. How can you test the thoroughness of the information you include in a message?

8. What are the steps in the process for organizing messages? 9. What elements do you consider when choosing between a direct and an indirect approach?

5. What are the main advantages of oral media? Of written media? Of visual media? Of electronic media?

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APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. Some writers argue that planning messages wastes time because they inevitably change their plans as they go along. How would you respond to this argument? Explain your answer. 2. As a member of the public relations department, what medium would you recommend using to inform the local community that your toxic-waste cleanup program has been successful? Why? 3. Would you use a direct or an indirect approach to ask employees to work overtime to meet an important deadline? Explain your answer. 4. Which approach would you use to let your boss know that you’ll be out half a day this week to attend your uncle’s funeral—direct or indirect? Why?

5. Ethical Choices The company president has asked you to draft a memo to the board of directors informing them that sales in a line of gourmet fruit jams the company recently acquired have far exceeded anyone’s expectations. However, you happen to know that this increase reflects a trend across the industry, with many consumers switching from moderately priced jams to gourmet products. In fact, sales of your company’s traditional products have slipped in recent months. You were not asked to add this information, but you think it’s important for the board to be able to put the new sales data in proper context. What should you do?

RUNNING CASES > CASE 1  Noreen Noreen’s manager informs her of a new Petro-Go company promotion for Canadian customers owning a “Go Points” card. The first step is to prepare the service stations. The promotion details are as follows: (1) cardholders will now receive double points when they purchase more than $30 of gasoline in one visit (regular points up to $30 and then double points over $30); (2) cardholders will earn a new reward redemption—Petro-Go gift certificates ($20 certificate for a 250-point redemption); and (3) cardholders will win a free 6-litre container of windshield washer fluid when their accumulated points reach each 1000-point interval. Noreen is asked to create a letter to inform the service station owners/operators when the promotion begins, how it will be advertised, what the promotion offers, and how they will use their equipment to offer and track this promotion. An instruction booklet on where and how to place signs, how to update equipment, and how to manage card points will be attached to the letter. Noreen needs to prepare this booklet by gathering information from past promotional materials and then choosing only what she needs for this task. This letter needs to be distributed as soon as possible. There is much to be done.

> CASE 2  Kwong Kwong has done some research into Canadian business culture. He has also attended several college workshops to improve his English and speaking skills. Thanks to his efforts and improved

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QUESTIONS a. What information must Noreen gather? b. Why is it so important that Noreen’s letter be concise and accurate? c. What would be the best way to distribute this information to the service stations? d. What will the audience’s general attitude be toward the message? e. How many key ideas are in this letter? How will Noreen emphasize them? YOUR TASK The station owners/operators need to know how and where to put up promotional signs and how to update point-of-sale machines and registers using key codes and sequences. Write two sets of instructions for the service stations—the first set will be for a reader who has never used that type of machine or provided a promotion before, and the second set will be for a reader who is familiar with that type of machine and has provided promotions in the past. Use your imagination. Briefly explain how your two audiences affect your instructions.

understanding, he has now obtained a co-op placement with Accountants For All accounting firm. With the tax season quickly approaching, Kwong’s manager knows that their previous customers will once again look for an accounting firm to

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110 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

help them file their tax returns. Kwong’s manager asks him to produce a promotional letter that will help bring back previous customers. QUESTIONS a. What does Kwong need to plan? b. How should he get started? c. What information should Kwong put in this promotional letter? d. How should Kwong organize his letter? e. How much detail does he need to provide?

YOUR TASK List five messages you have received lately, such as direct-mail promotions, letters, email messages, phone solicitations, and lectures. For each, determine the general and the specific purpose; then, answer the following questions: 1. Was the message well timed? 2. Did the sender choose an appropriate medium for the message? 3. Did the appropriate person deliver the message? 4. Was the sender’s purpose realistic?

PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE A writer is working on an insurance information brochure and is having trouble grouping ideas logically into an outline. Prepare the outline, paying attention to appropriate subordination of the ideas. If necessary, rewrite phrases to give them a more consistent sound. Accident Protection Insurance Plan • Coverage is only pennies a day • Benefit is $100 000 for accidental death on common carriers • Benefit is $100 a day for hospitalization as a result of motor vehicle or common carrier accident • Benefit is $20 000 for accidental death in a motor vehicle accident

• Individual coverage is only $17.85 per quarter; family coverage is just $26.85 per quarter • No physical exam or health questions • Convenient payment—billed quarterly • Guaranteed acceptance for all applicants • No individual rate increases • Free, no-obligation examination period • Cash paid in addition to any other insurance carried • Covers accidental death when riding as fare-paying passenger on public transportation, including buses, trains, jets, ships, trolleys, subways, or any other common carrier • Covers accidental death in motor vehicle accidents occurring while driving or riding in or on an automobile, truck, camper, motor home, or non-motorized bicycle

EXERCISES 4.1 Message Planning Skills: Self-Assessment How good are you at planning business messages? Use the chart below to rate yourself on each element of planning an audience-centred business message. Then examine your ratings to identify where you are strongest and where you can improve, using the tips in this chapter.

4.2 Planning Messages: General and Specific Purpose Make a list of communication tasks you’ll need to accomplish in the next week or so (for example, a job application, a letter of complaint, a speech to a class, an order for a product). For each, determine a general and a specific purpose.

Element of Planning

Always

Frequently

Occasionally

Never

1. I start by defining my purpose.

        

        

        

        

2. I analyze my audience before writing a message.

        

        

        

        

3. I investigate what my audience wants to know.

        

        

        

        

4. I check that my information is accurate, ethical, and pertinent.

        

        

        

        

5. I consider my audience and purpose when selecting media.

        

        

        

        

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4.3 Planning Messages: Specific Purpose For each of the following communication tasks, state a specific purpose (if you have trouble, begin with “I want to . . .”). a. A report to your boss, the store manager, about the outdated items in the warehouse b. A memo to clients about your booth at the upcoming trade show c. A letter to a customer who hasn’t made a payment for three months d. A memo to employees about the department’s high cellphone bills e. A phone call to a supplier checking on an overdue parts shipment f. A report to future users of the computer program you have chosen to handle the company’s mailing list

4.4 Planning Messages: Audience Profile For each communication task below, write brief answers to three questions: Who is my audience? What is my audience’s general attitude toward my subject? What does my audience need to know? a. A final-notice collection letter from an appliance manufacturer to an appliance dealer, sent 10 days before initiating legal collection procedures b. An unsolicited sales letter asking readers to purchase 8-gigabyte thumb drives at near-wholesale prices c. An advertisement for peanut butter d. Fliers to be attached to doorknobs in the neighbourhood, announcing reduced rates for chimney lining or repairs e. A cover letter sent along with your résumé to a potential employer f. A request (to the seller) for a price adjustment on a piano that incurred $150 in damage during delivery to a banquet room in the hotel you manage

4.5 Meeting Audience Needs: Necessary Information Choose a product (such as an in-car touch screen display, a tablet, or a smartphone) that you know how to operate well. Write two sets of instructions for operating the device: one set for a reader who has never used that type of device, and one set for someone who is generally familiar with that type of device but has never operated the specific model. Briefly explain how your two audiences affect your instructions. (Limit your instructions to the basic functions, such as placing and receiving calls on a smartphone.)

4.6 Selecting Media: Identifying an Audience Barbara Lin is in charge of public relations for a cruise line that operates out of Vancouver. She is shocked to read a letter in a local newspaper from a disgruntled passenger, complaining about the service and entertainment on a recent cruise. Lin will have to respond to these publicized criticisms in some way. What audiences will she need to consider in her response?

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What medium should she choose? If the letter had been published in a travel publication widely read by travel agents and cruise travellers, how might her course of action differ?

4.7 Teamwork: Audience Analysis With a team assigned by your instructor, compare the Facebook pages of three companies in the same industry. Analyze the content on all the available tabs. What can you surmise about the intended audience for each company? Which of the three does the best job of presenting the information its target audience is likely to need? Prepare a brief presentation, including slides that show samples of the Facebook content from each company.

4.8 Internet: Planning Your Message Go to the TELUS website at http://about.telus.com/community/ english and follow the link to the latest annual report (look under Investor Relations). Locate and read the CEO’s letter to investors in the report. Who is the primary audience for this message? Who is the secondary audience? What is the general purpose of the message? What do you think this audience wants to know from the CEO of TELUS? Summarize your answers in a brief (one-page) memo or oral presentation.

4.9 Message Organization: Outlining Your Content Using the Nutri-Veg email in this chapter (Figure 4–6), draw an organizational chart similar to the one shown in Figure 4–12. Fill in the main idea, the major points, and the evidence provided in this letter. (Note: Your diagram may be smaller than the one provided in Figure 4–12.)

4.10 Message Organization: Limiting Scope Suppose you are preparing to recommend that top management install a new heating system that uses a process called cogeneration, in which production waste is used to generate heat. The following information is in your files. Eliminate topics that aren’t essential; then arrange the other topics so your report will give top managers a clear understanding of the heating system and a balanced, concise justification for installing it. • History of the development of the cogeneration heating process • Scientific credentials of the developers of the process • Risks assumed in using this process • Your plan for installing the equipment in your building • Stories about its successful use in comparable facilities • Specifications of the equipment that would be installed • Plans for disposing of the old heating equipment • Costs of installing and running the new equipment • Advantages and disadvantages of using the new process • Detailed 10-year cost projections • Estimates of the time needed to phase in the new system • Alternative systems that management might wish to consider

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4.11 Message Organization: Choosing an Approach Indicate whether a direct or an indirect approach would be best in each situation, then briefly explain why. Would any of these messages be inappropriate for email? Explain. a. A message to the owner of an automobile dealership, complaining about poor service work b. A message from a recent graduate requesting a letter of recommendation from a former instructor c. A message turning down a job applicant d. An announcement that, because of high air-conditioning costs, the plant temperature will be held at 24°C during the summer e. A final request to settle a delinquent debt

d. You want to collect a small amount from a regular customer whose account is slightly past due. e. You want to collect a large amount from a customer whose account is seriously past due.

4.13 Ethical Choices: Providing Information Your supervisor, whom you respect, has asked you to withhold important information that you think should be included in a report you are preparing. Disobeying him could be disastrous for your relationship with him and possibly your career. Obeying him could violate your personal code of ethics. What should you do? On the basis of the discussion in Chapter 1, would you consider this situation to be an ethical dilemma or an ethical lapse? Please explain.

4.12 Message Organization: Audience Focus

4.14 Three-Step Process: Other Applications

If you were trying to persuade people to take the following actions, how would you organize your argument? a. You want your boss to approve your plan for hiring two additional people. b. You want to be hired for a job. c. You want to be granted a business loan.

In an email message to your instructor, explain how the material discussed in this chapter can also apply to meetings, as discussed in Chapter 2. (Hint: Review the section headings in this chapter and think about making your meetings more productive.)

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5

Writing Business Messages

LEARNING OBJECTIVES  After studying this chapter, you will be able to

1

Explain the importance of adapting your messages to the needs and expectations of your audience

5

Explain how sentence style affects emphasis within your message

2

Explain why establishing credibility is vital to the success of your communication efforts

6

Cite five ways to develop coherent paragraphs

3

Discuss how to achieve a businesslike tone with a style that is clear and concise

4

Describe how to select words that are not only correct but also effective

ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT

MyLab Business Communication  Visit MyLab Business Communication to access a variety of online resources directly related to this chapter’s content..

CREATIVE COMMONS Redefining Two Centuries of Copyright Law for the Digital Age

Koichi Mitsui/AFLO/Newscom

http://creativecommons.org

Creative Commons, chaired by Joi Ito, uses a variety of communication vehicles to convince copyright owners to explore new ways of sharing and protecting their creative works.

Have you ever noticed that tiny © symbol on books, DVDs, music CDs, and other media products? This symbol means that the person or organization that created the item is granted copyright protection—the exclusive legal right to produce, distribute, and sell that creation. Anyone who wants to resell, redistribute, or adapt such works usually needs to secure permission from the current copyright holder. However, what if you want people to remix the song you just recorded or use your graphic designs in whatever artistic compositions they might want to create? Or if you want to give away some of your creative works to get your name out there, without giving up all your legal rights to them? Alternatively, suppose you need a few photos or a video clip for a website. In all of these cases, permission would normally have to be sought and granted for use of the material. Other than for limited personal and educational use, a conventional copyright requires every person to negotiate a contract for every application or adaptation of every piece of work he or she wants to use. The search for some middle ground between “all rights reserved” and simply giving your work away led to the founding of Creative Commons. This nonprofit organization’s goal is to provide a simple, free, and legal way for musicians, artists, writers, teachers, scientists, and others to collaborate and benefit through the sharing of art and ideas. Instead of the everythingor-nothing approach of traditional copyright, Creative Commons offers a more flexible range of “some rights reserved” options. 113

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114 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

Through a variety of media, Creative Commons continues to promote the benefits of simplifying the legal constraints on sharing and reusing intellectual property, whether for creative expression or scientific research. Millions of Creative Commons licences have been initiated for musical works, short films, educational materials, novels, and more. This approach can’t solve the entire dilemma of copyrights in the digital age,

but it has already created a better way for creative people to communicate and collaborate. If you worked at Creative Commons, how would you write messages about the purpose and process of this organization? How would you adapt your message for your audience? What media would you use?1

Adapting to Your Audience: Being Sensitive to Audience Needs 1

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain the importance of adapting your messages to the needs and expectations of your audience.

Readers and listeners want to know how your messages will benefit them.

1

Planning

As they work to persuade their audiences to consider new forms of copyright protection, Joi Ito and his colleagues at Creative Commons realize that it takes more than just a great idea to change the way people think. Expressing ideas clearly and persuasively starts with adapting to one’s audience. With a solid plan in place (see Chapter 4), you’re ready to choose the words and craft the sentences and paragraphs that will carry your ideas to their intended audiences. The second step in the three-step writing process (Figure 5–1) includes two vital tasks: adapting to your audience and composing your message. With many organizations reaching international clients, word choice is very important for addressing audiences. Make sure you avoid slang, business speak, and clichés. Whether consciously or not, audiences greet most incoming messages with a question: “What’s in this for me?” If your intended audience thinks a message does not apply to them or doesn’t meet their needs, they won’t be inclined to pay attention to it. Look at the Creative Commons website, which uses video interviews with Creative Commons employees, newsletters, and case studies, among other communication media, to engage people and educate them about Creative Commons’s goals. For example, through a case study about an African sleeping sickness test, scientists can learn how to license their findings to provide free access to their research. Artists who want to provide music online can download a booklet titled “New Ways of Doing Music Business” for licensing

2

Writing

3

Completing

Adapt to Your Audience Be sensitive to audience needs by writing with a “you” attitude, politeness, positive emphasis, and bias-free language. Build a strong relationship with your audience by establishing your credibility and projecting your company’s image. Control your style with a conversational tone, plain English, and appropriate voice. Compose the Message Choose precise language that will help you create effective sentences and coherent paragraphs. Figure 5–1  Step 2 in the Three-Step Writing Process: Write Your Messages

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guidance. By adapting your communication to your readers’ particular needs and expectations, you’ll provide a more compelling answer to “What’s in this for me?” and improve the chances of your message being successful. Adapting your message is not always a simple task. Some situations will require you to balance competing or conflicting needs—for example, when you’re trying to convince people to change their minds or when you’re delivering bad news. To adapt your message to your audience, be sensitive to their needs, build a strong relationship with them, and control your style to maintain a professional tone. Even in simple messages intended merely to share information, it’s possible to use all the right words and still not be sensitive to your audience and their needs. You can improve your audience sensitivity by adopting the “you” attitude, maintaining good standards of etiquette, emphasizing the positive, and using bias-free language.

USING THE “YOU” ATTITUDE Chapter 1 introduced the notion of the audience-centred approach, trying to see a subject through your audience’s eyes. Now you want to project this approach in your messages by adopting a “you” attitude—speaking and writing in terms of your audience’s wishes, interests, hopes, and preferences. On the simplest level, you can adopt the “you” attitude by replacing terms that refer to yourself and your company with terms that refer to your audience. In other words, use you and yours instead of I, me, mine, we, us, and ours: Instead of This

Use This

To help us process this order, we must ask for another copy of the requisition.

So that your order can be filled promptly, please send another copy of the requisition.

We are pleased to announce our new flight schedule from Toronto to Montreal, which is any hour on the hour.

Now you can fly from Toronto to Montreal any hour on the hour.

We offer MP3 players with 16, 32, or 64 gigabytes of storage capacity.

Select your MP3 player from three models, with 16, 32, or 64 gigabytes of storage capacity.

The “you” attitude is best implemented by expressing your message in terms of the audience’s interests and needs.

When business messages use an “I” or “we” attitude, the writer risks sounding selfish and uninterested in the audience. The message tells what the sender wants, and the audience is expected to go along with it. Even so, using you and yours requires finesse. If you overdo it, you’re likely to create awkward sentences and run the risk of sounding overly enthusiastic and artificial.2 The “you” attitude is not intended to be manipulative or insincere. It’s an extension of the audience-centred approach. In fact, the best way to implement the “you” attitude is to think sincerely about your audience when composing your message. Nor is the “you” attitude simply a matter of using one pronoun rather than another; it’s a matter of genuine empathy. You can use you 25 times in a single page and still ignore your audience’s true concerns. In other words, it’s the thought and sincerity that count, not the pronoun you. If you’re talking to a retailer, try to think like a retailer; if you’re dealing with a production supervisor, put yourself in that position; if you’re writing to a dissatisfied customer, imagine how you would feel at the other end of the transaction. The important thing is your attitude toward audience members and your appreciation of their position. Be aware that on some occasions it’s better to avoid using you, particularly if doing so will sound overly authoritative or accusing. For instance, instead of saying, “You failed to deliver the customer’s order on time,” you could minimize ill will by saying, “The customer didn’t receive the order on time,” or “Let’s figure out a system that will ensure on-time deliveries.”

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116 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

Avoid using you and yours when doing so • Makes you sound dictatorial • Makes someone else feel guilty • Goes against your organization’s style

Instead of This

Use This

You should never use that type of paper in the copy machine.

That type of paper doesn’t work very well in the copy machine.

You must correct all five copies by noon.

All five copies must be corrected by noon.

As you practise using the “you” attitude, be sure to consider the attitudes of other cultures and the policies of your organization. In some cultures, it is improper to single out one person’s achievements because the whole team is responsible for the outcome; in that case, using the pronoun we or our (when you and your audience are part of the same team) would be more appropriate. Similarly, some companies have a tradition of avoiding references to you and I in their memos and formal reports.

MAINTAINING STANDARDS OF ETIQUETTE

Although you may be tempted now and then to be brutally frank, express the facts in a kind and thoughtful manner.

Use extra tact when communicating with people higher up the organization chart or outside the company.

Another good way to demonstrate interest in your audience and to earn their respect is to demonstrate etiquette in your messages. You know how it feels to be treated inconsiderately; when that happens, you probably react emotionally and then pay less attention to the offending message. By being courteous to members of your audience, you show consideration for them and foster a more successful environment for communication. On those occasions when you experience frustration with co-workers, customers, or others you deal with, you might be tempted to respond in blunt terms. However, venting your emotions rarely improves the situation and can damage your reputation. Demonstrate your diplomatic skills by controlling your emotions and communicating calmly and politely: Instead of This

Use This

Once again, you’ve managed to bring down the website through your incompetent programming.

Let’s go over what went wrong with the last site update so that we can improve the process.

You’ve been sitting on our order for two weeks, and we need it now!

Our production schedules depend on timely delivery of parts and supplies, but we have not yet received the order you promised to deliver two weeks ago. Please respond today with a firm delivery commitment.

Of course, some situations require more diplomacy than others. If you know your audience well, a less formal approach might be more appropriate. However, when you are communicating with people who outrank you or with people outside your organization, an added measure of courtesy is usually needed. Written communication and most forms of electronic media generally require more tact than oral communication. In the “ineffective” example in Figure 5–2, notice how the customer service agent’s unfortunate word choices immediately derail this instant messaging exchange. In the “effective” example, a more sensitive approach allows both people to focus on solving the problem. Unlike writing, when you’re speaking, your words are softened by your tone of voice and facial expression. In addition, you can adjust your approach according to the feedback you get. If you inadvertently offend someone in writing, you usually won’t get the immediate feedback to resolve the situation. In fact, you may never know that you offended your audience.

EMPHASIZING THE POSITIVE You can communicate negative news without being negative.

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You will encounter situations throughout your career in which you need to convey unwanted news. However, there is a big difference between delivering negative news and being negative. When the tone of your message is negative,

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CHAPTER 5  WRITING BUSINESS MESSAGES 117

e

tiv c e ff

Ine

Customer starts with a clear description of the problem.

Agent immediately blames the customer, without gathering any information. The agent’s accusation puts the customer in a defensive, negative frame of mind. Agent is practically accusing the customer of lying. The conversation has needlessly degenerated into an argument by this point.

e

tiv c e ff

E

The agent expresses sympathy for the customer’s plight, which establishes an emotional bond and encourages more effective communication.

The conversation continues in a positive mood, with the focus on solving the problem, not on blaming the customer.

Figure 5–2  Fostering a Positive Relationship with an Audience Courtesy: Pearson Education, Inc.

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118 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

you put unnecessary strain on business relationships, which can cause people to distance themselves from you and your ideas. If you’re facing a potentially negative situation, seek ways to soften the blow or emphasize positive aspects of a situation. Never hide the negative news, but always try to find positive points that will foster a good relationship with your audience:3

When you are offering criticism or advice, focus on what the person can do to improve.

Show your audience how they will benefit from complying with your message.

Avoid words with negative connotations; use meaningful euphemisms instead.

Instead of This

Use This

It is impossible to repair your car today.

Your car can be ready by Tuesday. Would you like a loaner until then?

We apologize for inconveniencing you during our remodelling.

The renovations now under way will help us serve you better.

We wasted $300 000 advertising in that magazine.

Our $300 000 advertising investment did not pay off; let’s analyze the experience and apply the insights to future campaigns.

When you find it necessary to criticize or correct, don’t dwell on the other person’s mistakes. Avoid referring to failures, problems, or shortcomings. Focus instead on what the person can do to improve: Instead of This

Use This

The problem with this department is a failure to control costs.

The performance of this department can be improved by tightening cost controls.

You filled out the order form wrong.

Please check your colour preferences on the enclosed card so we can process your order.

If you’re trying to persuade the audience to buy a product, pay a bill, or perform a service for you, emphasize what’s in it for them. Don’t focus on why you want them to do something. An individual who sees the possibility for personal benefit is more likely to respond positively to your appeal: Instead of This

Use This

We will notify all three credit reporting agencies if you do not pay your overdue bill within 10 days.

Paying your overdue bill within 10 days will prevent a negative entry on your credit record.

I am tired of seeing so many errors in the customer service blog.

Proofreading your blog postings will help you avoid embarrassing mistakes that generate more customer service complaints.

In general, state your message without using words that might hurt or offend your audience. Substitute euphemisms (mild terms) for those that have unpleasant meanings. You can be honest without being harsh. Gentle language won’t change the facts, but it will make them more acceptable: Instead of This

Use This

cheap merchandise

economy merchandise

used cars

preowned cars

failing

underperforming

elderly

senior citizen

fake

imitation or faux

On the other hand, don’t carry euphemisms to extremes, or your audience will view your efforts as insincere or miss your meaning. It would be unethical to speak to your community about “manufacturing byproducts” when you’re really talking about plans for disposing of toxic waste. Even if it is unpleasant, people respond better to an honest message delivered with integrity than they do to a sugar-coated message filled with empty talk.

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USING BIAS-FREE LANGUAGE Chapter 3 points out that you are often unaware of the influence of your own culture on your behaviour, and this circumstance extends to the language you use. Any bias present in your culture is likely to show up in your language, often in subtle ways that you might not even recognize. However, chances are that your audience will. Bias-free language avoids words and phrases that unfairly and even unethically categorize or stigmatize people in ways related to gender, race, ethnicity, age, or disability. Contrary to what some might think, biased language is not simply about “labels.” To a significant degree, language reflects the way people think and what they believe, and biased language may well perpetuate the underlying stereotypes and prejudices that it represents.4 Moreover, since perception is a large part of communication, being fair and objective isn’t enough; to establish a good relationship with your audience, you must also appear to be fair.5 Good communicators make every effort to change biased language (see Table 5–1). Bias can come in a variety of forms: Table 5–1

Avoid biased language that might offend your audience.

Overcoming Bias in Language

Examples

Unacceptable

Preferable

Mankind

Humanity, human beings, human race, people

Man-made

Artificial, synthetic, manufactured, constructed

Manpower

Human power, human energy, workers, workforce

Businessman

Executive, business manager, businessperson

Salesman

Sales representative, salesperson, clerk, sales agent

Foreman

Supervisor

Using female-gender words

Authoress, actress, stewardess

Author, actor, flight attendant

Using special designations

Woman doctor, male nurse

Doctor, nurse

Using he to refer to everyone

The average worker, he

The average worker, he or she

Identifying roles with gender

The typical executive spends four hours of his day in meetings.

Most executives spend four hours each day in meetings.

Consumer, she

Consumers, they

The nurse/teacher, she

Nurses/teachers, they

Don Harron and Catherine

Don Harron and Catherine McKinnon

Don Harron and Ms. McKinnon

Mr. Harron and Ms. McKinnon

My black assistant speaks more articulately than I do.

My assistant speaks more articulately than I do.

Not surprisingly, Shing Tung-Yau excels in mathematics.

Shing Tung-Yau excels in mathematics.

Frank Clementi, Italian-Canadian CEO

Frank Clementi, CEO

Mary Kirazy, 58, has just joined our trust department.

Mary Kirazy has just joined our trust department.

Disabled workers face many barriers on the job.

Workers with physical challenges face many barriers on the job.

An epileptic, Tracy has no trouble doing her job.

Tracy’s epilepsy has no effect on her job performance.

Gender Bias Using words containing “man”

Identifying women by marital status Racial/Ethnic Bias Assigning stereotypes

Identifying people by race or ethnicity Age Bias Including age when irrelevant Disability Bias Putting the disability before the person

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• Gender bias. Avoid sexist language by using the same label for everyone (don’t call a woman chairperson and then call a man chairman). Reword sentences to use they or no pronoun at all. Vary traditional patterns by sometimes putting women first (women and men, she and he, her and his). Note that the preferred title for women in business is Ms., unless the individual asks to be addressed as Miss or Mrs. or has some other title, such as Dr. • Racial and ethnic bias. Avoid language suggesting that members of a racial or ethnic group have stereotypical characteristics. The best solution is to avoid identifying people by race or ethnic origin unless such a label is relevant to the matter at hand—and it rarely is. • References to Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. The Canadian Constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal peoples: Indians, Métis, and Inuit. They each have their own heritage, languages, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs. The term Indian describes all the Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are not Inuit or Métis. Many Aboriginal peoples today are offended by the term Indian and prefer First Nations. Many First Nations peoples have adopted the term First Nation to replace the term band to designate their community. As an accurate and ethical communicator, be sure to use the terms that Canada’s Aboriginal peoples prefer. • Age bias. As with gender, race, and ethnic background, mention the age of a person only when it is relevant. Moreover, be careful of the context in which you use words that refer to age. Such words carry a variety of positive and negative connotations—and not only when referring to people beyond a certain age. For example, young can imply youthfulness, inexperience, or even immaturity, depending on how it’s used. • Disability bias. Physical, mental, sensory, or emotional impairments should never be mentioned in business messages unless those conditions are directly relevant to the subject. If you must refer to someone’s disability, put the person first and the disability second.6 For example, by saying “employees with physical challenges,” not “handicapped employees,” you focus on the whole person, not the disability. The Canadian Human Rights Commission guarantees equal opportunities for people who have or have had a condition that might handicap them. The goal of bias-free communication is to abandon stereotyped assumptions about what a person can do or will do and to focus on an individual’s unique characteristics.

Adapting to Your Audience: Building Strong Relationships with Your Audience 2

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain why establishing credibility is vital to the success of your communication efforts

Focusing on your audience’s needs is vital to effective communication, but you also have your own priorities as a communicator. Sometimes these needs are obvious and direct, such as when you’re appealing for a budget increase for your department. At other times, the need may be more subtle. For example, you may want to explain your company’s environmental practices when dealing with customers concerned about environmental issues. Two key efforts help you address your own needs while building positive relationships with your audience: establishing your credibility and projecting your company’s image.

ESTABLISHING YOUR CREDIBILITY People are more likely to react positively to your message when they have confidence in you.

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Your audience’s response to every message you send depends heavily on their perception of your credibility, a measure of your believability based

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on how reliable you are and how much trust you evoke in others. With colleagues and long-term customers, you’ve already established some degree of credibility based on past communication efforts. As long as you haven’t let people down in the past, they are inclined to accept each new message from you. However, with audiences who don’t know you, you need to establish credibility before they accept—or perhaps even pay attention to—your messages. Whether you’re working to build credibility with a new audience, to maintain credibility with an existing audience, or even to restore credibility after a mistake, consider emphasizing the following characteristics: • Honesty. Honesty is the cornerstone of credibility. No matter how famous, important, charming, or attractive you are, if you don’t tell the truth, most people will eventually lose faith in you. On the other hand, demonstrating honesty and integrity will earn you the respect of your colleagues and the trust of everyone you communicate with, even if they don’t always agree with or welcome the messages you have to deliver. • Objectivity. Audiences appreciate the ability to distance yourself from emotional situations and to look at all sides of an issue. They want to believe that you have their interests in mind, not just your own. • Awareness of audience needs. Let your audience know that you understand what’s important to them. If you’ve done a thorough audience analysis, you’ll know what your audience cares about and their specific issues and concerns in a particular situation. • Credentials, knowledge, and expertise. Every audience wants to be assured that the messages they receive come from people who know what they’re talking about—that’s why public speakers, for example, often arrange to be introduced with brief summaries of their experience and qualifications. When you need to establish credibility with a new audience, put yourself in their position and try to identify the credentials that would be most important to them. Is it your education, a professional certification, special training, or success on the job? Express these qualifications clearly and objectively, without overshadowing the message. Sometimes it’s as simple as using the correct technical terms or mentioning your role in a successful project. • Endorsements. An endorsement is a statement on your behalf by someone who is accepted by your audience as an expert. If your audience doesn’t know anything about you, you might be able to get assistance from someone they do know and trust. For example, when delivering a presentation, you could quote a recognized authority on your subject, even if you don’t know the authority personally. Once the audience learns that you’ve done your research, they’ll be more receptive to your messages. • Performance. Who impresses you more, the person who always says, “If you ever need me, all you have to do is call,” or the one who actually shows up when you need to move or when you need a ride to the airport? It’s easy to say you can do something, but following through can be much harder. That’s why demonstrating impressive communication skills is not enough; people need to know they can count on you to get the job done. • Sincerity. When you offer praise, don’t use hyperbole, such as “you are the most fantastic employee I could ever imagine.” Instead, point out specific qualities that warrant praise.

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To enhance your credibility, emphasize such factors as honesty, objectivity, and awareness of audience needs.

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Show you are aware of a person’s contributions and are not making generic thanks: Instead of This

Use This

My deepest, heartfelt thanks for the excellent job you did. It’s hard these days to find workers like you. You are just fantastic! I can’t stress enough how happy you have made us with your outstanding performance.

Thanks for the great job you did filling in for Sean at the convention on such short notice. Despite the difficult circumstances, you managed to attract several new orders with your demonstration of the new line of coffeemakers. Your dedication and sales ability are truly appreciated.

Even though arrogance turns listeners off, displaying too much modesty or too little confidence can hurt your credibility. If you lack faith in yourself, you’re likely to communicate an uncertain attitude that undermines your credibility; audiences need to know that you believe in yourself and your message. The key to being believable is to believe in yourself. If you are convinced that your message is sound, you can state your case with authority so that your audience has no doubts. Avoid vague sentiments and confidence-draining words such as if, hope, and trust: Instead of This

Use This

We hope this recommendation will be helpful. We’re glad to make this recommendation. If you’d like to order, mail us the reply card.

To order, mail the reply card.

We trust that you’ll extend your service contract.

By extending your service contract, you can continue to enjoy top-notch performance from your equipment.

In addition, credibility is established by awareness of the language the audience knows and expects. It has become common practice to “speak to an issue,” or “dig deeper,” or even examine a “paradigm shift.” The problem with language like this is that it is essentially meaningless. What does it really mean to “think outside the box”? How would someone from another culture interpret this? By using slang, clichés, and “business speak,” you can negatively affect your credibility because your readers could misunderstand or misinterpret what you are trying to say. If you are not sure whether your language is too informal, try putting words or phrases into a search engine to see what the results are. Credibility is built by communicating clearly and concisely to your audience. Finally, keep in mind that credibility can take days, months, or even years to establish—and it can be wiped out in an instant. An occasional mistake or letdown is usually forgiven, but major lapses in honesty or integrity can destroy your reputation. On the other hand, when you do establish credibility, communication becomes much easier because you no longer have to spend time and energy convincing people that you are a trustworthy source of information and ideas.

PROJECTING THE COMPANY’S IMAGE Your company’s interests and reputation take precedence over your personal communication style.

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When you communicate with anyone outside your organization, it is more than a conversation between two individuals. You represent your company and therefore play a vital role in helping the company build and maintain positive relationships with all its stakeholders. Most successful companies work hard to foster a specific public image, and your external communication efforts need to project that image. As part of this responsibility, the interests and preferred communication style of your company must take precedence over your own views and personal communication style. Many organizations have specific communication guidelines that show everything from the correct use of the company name to preferred abbreviations and other grammatical details. Specifying a desired style of communication is more difficult, however. Observe more experienced colleagues to see how they

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communicate, and never hesitate to ask for editorial help to make sure you’re conveying the appropriate tone. For example, with clients entrusting thousands or millions of dollars to it, an investment firm communicates in a style quite different from that of a clothing retailer. And a clothing retailer specializing in high-quality business attire communicates in a style different from that of a store catering to the latest trends in casual wear.

Adapting to Your Audience: Controlling Your Style and Tone Your communication style involves the choices you make to express yourself: the words you select, the manner in which you use those words in sentences, and the way you build paragraphs from individual sentences. Your style creates a certain tone, or overall impression, in your messages. You can vary your style to sound forceful or objective, personal or formal, colourful or dry. The right choice depends on the nature of your message and your relationship with the reader.

3

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Discuss how to achieve a businesslike tone with a style that is clear and concise.

USING A CONVERSATIONAL TONE The tone of your business messages can range from informal to conversational to formal. If you’re in a large organization and you’re communicating with your superiors or with customers, your tone would tend to be more formal and respectful.7 However, that formal tone might sound distant and cold if used with close colleagues. Compare the three versions of the message in Table 5–2. The first is too formal and stuffy for today’s audiences, whereas the third is too casual for any audience other than close associates or friends. The second message demonstrates the conversational tone used in most business communication—plain language that sounds businesslike without being stuffy or full of jargon. Table 5–2

Most business messages aim for a conversational style that is warm but still businesslike.

Three Levels of Tone: Formal, Conversational, and Informal

Formal Tone

Conversational Tone

Informal Tone

Reserved for the most formal occasions

Preferred for most business communication

Reserved for communication with friends and close associates

Dear Ms. Navarro:

Dear Ms. Navarro:

Hi Gabriella,

Enclosed is the information that was requested during our telephone conversation on May 14.

Here’s the information you requested ­during our phone conversation on Friday. As I mentioned, Lefebvre Financial Services has excellent financial advisors.

Hope all is well. Just sending along the information you asked for.

As I mentioned at that time, Lefebvre Financial Services has personal financial advisors of exceptional quality. As you were also informed, our organization has a highly trained team of pension and benefits specialists who will also assist you with your retirement planning concerns. If you want one of them to provide information to a Lefebvre advisor, please inform us with your permission. If you have questions or would like ­additional information, you may certainly ­contact me during regular business hours.

In addition, our experienced pension and benefits team will help you with your ­retirement plans. They can give information to a Lefebvre advisor with your permission; please let us know. If you would like more information, please call any time between 9:00 and 5:00, Monday through Friday. Sincerely, Samuel G. Berenz

As I said on Friday, Lefebvre Financial ­Services has great financial advisors with a lot of experience. Also, our pension and benefits team will help with your retirement plans. They’ll be happy to speak with you and contact a Lefebvre rep with your permission. Just call me if you want to know more— any time from 9:00 to 5:00 is fine. Take care, Sam

Sincerely yours, Samuel G. Berenz

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124 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

Brian Blanco/AP Images

You can achieve a conversational tone in your messages by following these guidelines: • Avoid obsolete and pompous language. Business language used to be much more formal than it is today, but some out-of-date phrases still appear. You can avoid using such language if you ask yourself, “Would I say this if I were talking with someone face to face?” Similarly, avoid using big words, trite expressions, and overly complicated sentences to impress others. Such pompous language sounds self-important (see Table 5–3). • Avoid preaching and bragging. People who think that they know everything and that others know nothing can be very irritating. If Before writing a letter or an email message on behalf of your company, think you need to remind your audience of someabout how you project the company image. What image does this photo of Lowe’s employees project? Why is image so important? In what ways do thing obvious, insert the information casuemployees project their company’s image to the public? ally, into the middle of a paragraph, where it will sound like a secondary comment rather than a major revelation. When speaking, you can preface the obvious with a comment like, “As you know.” To maintain a favourable image, avoid bragging about your accomplishments or those of your organization (unless your audience is a part of your organization). • Be careful with intimacy. Most business messages should avoid intimacy, such as sharing personal details or adopting a casual, unprofessional tone. However, when you do have a close relationship with your audience, such as among the members of a close-knit team, a more intimate tone is sometimes appropriate and even expected. • Be careful with humour. Humour can be an effective tool to inject interest into dry subjects or take the sting out of negative news, but it can easily backfire and divert attention from your message. The humour must be connected to the point you’re trying to make. Business messages are not a forum Table 5–3

Staying Up to Date and Accessible with Business Language

Obsolete

Accessible

in due course

today, tomorrow (or a specific time)

permit me to say that

(permission is not necessary)

we are in receipt of

we received

pursuant to

(omit)

in closing, I’d like to say

(omit)

the undersigned

I; we

kindly advise

please let me/us know

attached please find

enclosed is or I/we have enclosed

it has come to my attention

I have just learned; Ms. Garza has just told me

In closing, I’d like to say

(Omit; just say whatever you need to say.)

we wish to inform you that

(Omit; just say whatever you need to say.)

please be advised that

(Omit; just say whatever you need to say.)

Pompous

Accessible

Upon procurement of additional supplies, I will initiate fulfillment of your order.

I will fill your order when I receive more supplies.

Perusal of the records indicates a substantial deficit for the preceding accounting period due to the continued utilization of obsolete equipment.

The records show a company loss last year due to the use of old equipment.

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CHAPTER 5  WRITING BUSINESS MESSAGES 125

for sharing jokes. Never use humour in formal messages or when you’re communicating across cultural boundaries: your international audience may not appreciate your humour or even realize that you’re trying to be funny.8 If you don’t know your audience well or you’re not skilled at using humour in a business setting, don’t use it at all. When in doubt, leave it out.

USING PLAIN LANGUAGE What do you think this sentence is trying to say? We continually exist to synergistically supply value-added deliverables such that we may continue to proactively maintain enterprise-wide data to stay competitive in tomorrow’s world.9

If you don’t have any idea what it means, you’re not alone. However, this is a real sentence from a real company, written in an attempt to explain what the company does and why. This sort of incomprehensible, buzzword-filled writing is driving a widespread call to use plain language (or plain English, specifically, when English is involved). Plain language presents information in a simple, unadorned style that allows your audience to easily grasp your meaning, without struggling through specialized, technical, or convoluted language. The Plain English Campaign (a nonprofit group in England campaigning for clear language) defines plain English as language “that the intended audience can read, understand and act upon the first time they read it.”10 You can see how this definition supports using the “you” attitude and shows respect for your audience. In addition, plain language can make companies more productive and more profitable simply because people spend less time trying to figure out messages that are confusing or aren’t written to meet their needs.11 On the Creative Commons website, for example, licensing terms are available in three versions: a complete “legal code” document that spells out contractual details in specific legal terms that meet the needs of legal professionals, a “humanreadable” version that explains the licensing terms in nontechnical language that anyone can understand, and a “machine readable” version fine-tuned for search engines and other systems (see Figure 5–3).12 For all its advantages, plain language does have some limitations. It sometimes lacks the precision or subtlety necessary for scientific research, engineering documents, intense feeling, and personal insight. Moreover, it doesn’t embrace all cultures and dialects equally. But even though it’s intended for audiences who speak English as their primary language, plain language can also help you simplify the messages you prepare for audiences who speak English only as a second or even third language. For example, by choosing words that have only one interpretation, you will surely communicate more clearly with your intercultural audience.13 Plain language also refers to the use of concrete terms and the elimination of slang, jargon, and clichés, as well as business speak and doubling up of words. Phrases like “new and improved,” “a terrible tragedy,” “refer back,” or “a large majority” are examples of these unnecessary word pairings. You also want to avoid words like huge, large, or small, as these are difficult to imagine and can mean a variety of things based on your perception. A “huge” house could be 10 000 square feet in North America, but 2000 square feet in countries where land for building is not available. Where possible, use numbers to quantify your meaning.

Audiences can understand and act on plain language without reading it over and over.

SELECTING ACTIVE OR PASSIVE VOICE Your choice of active or passive voice also affects the tone of your message. You are using active voice when the subject performs the action and the object receives it: “John rented the office.” You’re using passive voice when the subject

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126 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS The introductory sentence expresses the main idea, that the licences are built in three layers (note that “use” would be a simpler alternative to “incorporate”). The paragraph on the “human readable” version explains why it exists and whom it benefits.

The notion of three layers is carried through the text and reinforced with the diagram.

The purpose and function of the “machine readable” version are less obvious than in the other two versions, so this paragraph offers a more extensive explanation.

Figure 5–3  Plain Language at Creative Commons Courtesy: Creative Commons

Active sentences are usually stronger than passive ones. Use passive sentences to soften bad news, to put yourself in the background, or to create an impersonal tone.

Table 5–4

receives the action: “The office was rented by John.” As you can see, the passive voice combines the helping verb to be with a form of the verb that is usually similar to the past tense. When you use active sentences, your messages generally sound less formal and make it easier for readers to determine who performed the action (see Table 5–4). In contrast, using passive voice de-emphasizes the subject and implies that the action was done by something or someone. Using the active voice makes your writing more direct, livelier, and easier to read. In contrast, the passive voice is not wrong grammatically, but it is often cumbersome, can be unnecessarily vague, and can make sentences longer. In most cases, the active voice is your best choice.14 Nevertheless, using the passive voice can help you demonstrate the “you” attitude in some situations: • When you want to be diplomatic about pointing out a problem or error (the passive version seems less like an accusation) • When you want to point out what’s being done without taking or attributing either the credit or the blame (the passive version leaves the actor completely out of the sentence)

Choosing Active or Passive Voice

Avoid passive voice to make your writing lively and direct. Dull and Indirect in Passive Voice

Lively and Direct in Active Voice

The new procedure was developed by the operations team.

The operations team developed the new procedure.

Legal problems are created by this contract.

This contract creates legal problems.

Reception preparations have been undertaken by our public relations people for the new CEO’s arrival.

Our public relations people have begun planning a reception for the new CEO.

Passive voice is helpful when you need to be diplomatic or want to focus attention on problems or solutions rather than on people. Accusatory or Self-Congratulatory in Active Voice

More Diplomatic in Passive Voice

You lost the shipment.

The shipment was lost.

I recruited seven engineers last month.

Seven engineers were recruited last month.

We are investigating the high rate of failures on the final assembly line.

The high rate of failures on the final assembly line is being investigated.

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• When you want to avoid personal pronouns to create an objective tone (the passive version may be used in a formal report, for example) The second half of Table 5–4 illustrates several situations in which the passive voice helps you focus your message on your audience.

Composing Your Message After you’ve decided how you can adapt to your audience, you’re ready to begin composing your message. As you write your first draft, let your creativity flow. Don’t draft and edit at the same time or worry about getting everything perfect. Make up words if you can’t think of the correct word; draw pictures, talk out loud—do whatever it takes to get the ideas out of your head and captured on screen or paper. If you’ve scheduled carefully, you’ll have time to revise and refine the material later, before showing it to anyone. In fact, many writers find it helpful to establish a personal rule of never showing a first draft to anyone. By working in this “safe zone,” away from the critical eyes of others, your mind will stay free to think clearly and creatively. See “Sharpening Your Career Skills: Beating Writer’s Block—Ten Workable Ideas to Get Words Flowing.”

4

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe how to select words that are not only correct but also effective.

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

“Use strong verbs and active voice. When you feel the need to toss in an adjective or

adverb, consider it a red flag that your nouns and verbs may lack precision, or you wouldn’t be seeking a modifier. Make every word contribute to the information. Eliminate such redundancies as important essentials, serious crisis, past history, previous experience, completely inaudible.



Dianna Booher, CEO, Booher Consultants

CHOOSING PRECISE WORDS You may find it helpful to hone your craft by viewing your writing at three levels: strong words, effective sentences, and coherent paragraphs. Starting at the word level, successful writers pay close attention to the correct use of words.15 If you make errors of grammar or usage, you lose credibility with your audience—even if your message is otherwise correct. Poor grammar suggests to readers that you’re uninformed, and they may choose not to trust an uninformed source. Moreover, poor grammar can imply that you don’t respect your audience enough to get things right. The “rules” of grammar and usage can be a source of worry for writers because some of these rules are complex and some evolve over time. Even professional editors and grammarians occasionally have questions about correct usage, and they sometimes disagree about the answers. For example, the word data is the plural form of datum, yet some experts now prefer to treat data as a singular noun when it’s used in nonscientific material to refer to a collection of facts or figures. With practice, you’ll become more skilled in making correct choices. If you have doubts about what is correct, you have many ways to find the answer. Consult the many special reference books and resources available in libraries, in bookstores, and on the Internet. In addition to using words correctly, successful writers and speakers take care to find the most effective words and phrases to convey their meaning. Selecting and using words effectively is often more challenging than using words correctly because it’s a matter of judgment and experience. Careful writers continue to work at their craft to find words that communicate with power.

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Hone your craft by viewing your writing at three levels: strong words, effective sentences, and coherent paragraphs. If you’re not sure of correct grammar or usage, look it up; you’ll avoid embarrassing mistakes and learn at the same time. Effectiveness is the second consideration when choosing words.

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128 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

USING FUNCTIONAL AND CONTENT WORDS CORRECTLY Functional words (conjunctions, prepositions, articles, and pronouns) express the relationships among content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs).

Words can be divided into two main categories: Functional words express relationships and have only one unchanging meaning in any given context. They include conjunctions, prepositions, articles, and pronouns. Your main concern with functional words is to use them correctly. Content words are multidimensional and therefore subject to various interpretations. They include nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. These words carry the meaning of a sentence. In your sentences, content words are the building blocks, and functional words are the mortar that holds them together. In the following sentence, all the content words are underlined: Some objective observers of the cookie market give Christie’s the edge in quality, but President’s Choice is lauded for superior distribution.

Both functional words and content words are necessary, but your effectiveness as a communicator depends largely on your ability to choose the right content words for your message.

SHARPENING YOUR CAREER SKILLS

Beating Writer’s Block: Ten Workable Ideas to Get Words Flowing

Putting words on a page or on screen can be a real struggle. Some people get stuck so often that they develop a mental block. If you get writer’s block, here are some ways to get words flowing: • Use positive self-talk. Stop worrying about how well or easily you write, and stop thinking of writing as difficult, time consuming, or complicated. Tell yourself that you’re capable and that you can do the job. Also, recall past examples of your writing that were successful. • Know your purpose. Be specific about what you want to accomplish with this particular assignment. Without a clear purpose, writing can indeed be impossible. • Visualize your audience. Picture audience backgrounds, interests, subject knowledge, and vocabulary (including the technical jargon they use). Such visualization can help you choose an appropriate style and tone for your writing. • Create a productive environment. Write in a location that’s meant for writing only, and make that setting pleasant. Set up “writing appointments.” Scheduling a session from 9:30 a.m. to noon is less intimidating than an indefinite session. Also, keep your mind fresh with scheduled breaks. • Make an outline or a list. Even if you don’t create a formal outline, jot down a few notes about how your ideas fit together. As you go along, you can revise your notes so that you end up with a plan that gives direction and coherence. • Just start. Put aside all worries, fears, and distractions— anything that gives you an excuse to postpone writing. Then put down any thoughts you have about your topic. Don’t worry about whether these ideas can actually be used; just let your mind range freely.

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• Write the middle first. Start wherever your interest is greatest and your ideas are most developed. You can follow new directions, but note ideas to revisit later. When you finish one section, choose another without worrying about sequence. Just get your thoughts down. • Push obstacles aside. If you get stuck at some point, don’t worry. Move past the thought, sentence, or paragraph, and come back to it later. Get started simply by writing or talking about why you’re stuck: “I’m stuck because …” Also brainstorm. Before you know it, you’ll be writing about your topic. • Read a newspaper or magazine. Read an article that uses a style similar to yours. Choose one you’ll enjoy so that you’ll read it more closely. • Exercise! Simply getting out of your chair, stretching your arms, taking deep breaths, and getting outside for half an hour or so will refresh your mind and give a new perspective on your task. When deadlines loom, don’t panic. Concentrate on the major ideas first, and save the details for later, after you have something on the page. If you keep the process in perspective, you’ll succeed. CAREER APPLICATIONS 1. List the ways you procrastinate, and discuss what you can do to break these habits. 2. Analyze your own writing experiences. What negative self-talk do you use? What might you do to overcome this tendency?

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UNDERSTANDING DENOTATION AND CONNOTATION Content words have both a denotative and a connotative meaning. The denotative meaning is the literal, or dictionary, meaning. The connotative meaning includes all the associations and feelings evoked by the word. The denotative meaning of desk is “a table used for writing.” Some desks may have drawers or compartments, and others may have a flat top or a sloping top, but the literal meaning is generally well understood. The connotative meaning of desk may include thoughts associated with work or study, but the word desk has fairly neutral connotations—neither strong nor emotional. However, some words have much stronger connotations than others. For example, the connotations of the word fail are negative and can carry strong emotional meaning. If you say that the sales department failed to meet its annual quota, the connotative meaning suggests that the group is inferior, incompetent, or below some standard of performance. However, the reason for not achieving 100 percent might be an inferior product, incorrect pricing, or some other factor outside the control of the sales department. In contrast, by saying that the sales department achieved 70 percent of its quota, you clearly communicate that the results were less than expected—without triggering all the negative emotions associated with failure.

Content words have both a denotative (explicit, specific) meaning and a connotative (implicit, associative) meaning.

BALANCING ABSTRACT AND CONCRETE WORDS Words vary dramatically in the degree of abstraction or concreteness they convey. An abstract word expresses a concept, quality, or characteristic. Abstractions are usually broad, encompassing a category of ideas, and they are often intellectual, academic, or philosophical. Love, honour, progress, tradition, and beauty are abstractions. In contrast, a concrete word stands for something you can touch or see. Concrete terms are anchored in the tangible, material world. Chair, table, horse, rose, kick, kiss, red, green, and two are concrete words; they are direct, clear, and exact. Incidentally, technology continues to generate new words and new meanings that describe things that don’t have a physical presence but are nonetheless concrete: software, database, signal, and code are all concrete terms as well. You might assume that concrete words are better than abstract words because they are more precise, but this isn’t always the case. Imagine talking about business without referring to such concepts as morale, productivity, profits, quality, motivation, and guarantees. Abstractions permit us to rise above the common and tangible. As you can imagine, abstractions tend to cause more trouble for writers and readers than concrete words. Abstractions tend to be “fuzzy” and can be interpreted differently, depending on the audience and the circumstances. The best way to minimize such problems is to blend abstract terms with concrete ones, the general with the specific. State the concept, then pin it down with details expressed in more concrete terms. Save the abstractions for ideas that cannot be expressed any other way. In addition, abstract words such as small, numerous, sizable, near, soon, good, and fine are imprecise, so try to replace them with terms that are more accurate. Instead of referring to a sizable loss, give an exact number.

The more abstract a word is, the more it is removed from the tangible, objective world of things that can be perceived with the senses.

In business communication, use concrete, specific terms whenever possible; use abstractions only when necessary.

FINDING WORDS THAT COMMUNICATE WELL By practising your writing, learning from experienced writers and editors, and reading extensively, you’ll find it easier to choose words that communicate your thoughts exactly. When you compose business messages, think carefully to find the most precise and powerful words for each situation (see Table 5–5). • Choose precise words. Choose words that express your thoughts clearly, specifically, and dynamically. Nouns and verbs are the most concrete and should do most of the communication work in your messages. Verbs are

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Try to use words that are precise and familiar.

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130 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

Table 5–5

Avoid clichés and trendy buzzwords in your writing, and use jargon only when your audience is completely familiar with it.

Finding Words That Communicate with Power

Avoid Unfamiliar Words

Use Familiar Words

ascertain

find out, learn

consummate

close, bring about

peruse

read, study

circumvent

avoid

increment

growth, increase

unequivocal

certain

Avoid Clichés and Buzzwords

Use Plain Language

an uphill battle

a challenge

writing on the wall

prediction

call the shots

be in charge

take by storm

attack

cost an arm and a leg

expensive

a new ball game

fresh start

fall through the cracks

be overlooked

think outside the box

be creative

especially powerful because they tell what’s happening in the sentence, so make them dynamic and specific. For instance, you could replace fall with slide, slip, plummet, drop, or decline to suggest the magnitude of the decrease. Here’s another helpful clue: if you find yourself using a lot of adjectives and adverbs, you’re probably trying to compensate for weak nouns and verbs. Saying that sales plummeted is stronger and more efficient than saying sales dropped dramatically or sales experienced a dramatic drop. • Choose familiar words. You’ll communicate best with words that are familiar to both you and your readers. Efforts to improve a situation can be ameliorative, but saying they are helpful is a lot more effective. Moreover, using an unfamiliar word for the first time in an important document can lead to embarrassing mistakes. • Avoid clichés and buzzwords. Although familiar words are generally the best choice, beware of terms and phrases so common or so trendy that they have lost some of their power to communicate. Most people use these phrases not because they think it makes their message more vivid and inviting but because they don’t know how to express themselves otherwise and don’t invest the energy required for original writing.16 • Use jargon carefully. Jargon is the specialized language of a particular profession or industry. Handle jargon with care. It is usually an efficient way to communicate within specific groups that understand their own special terms, but it will confuse people who are not members of those groups. For example, when a recording engineer wants to communicate that a particular piece of music is devoid of reverberation and other sound effects, it’s a lot easier to describe the track as “dry.” Of course, to people who aren’t familiar with such insider terms, jargon is meaningless and intimidating—one more reason it’s so important to understand your audience before you start writing. Remember, your business writing skills will improve through imitation and practice. As you read business journals, newspapers, and even novels, make a note of the words you think are effective and keep them in a file. Doing so will expand your vocabulary and make it easier to find a precise word when you are writing.

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Composing Your Message: Creating Effective Sentences In English, words don’t make much sense until they’re combined in a sentence to express a complete thought. Thus the words Jill, receptionist, the, smiles, and at can be organized into “Jill smiles at the receptionist.” Now that you’ve constructed the sentence, you can begin exploring the possibilities for improvement, looking at how well each word performs its particular function. Nouns and noun equivalents are the topics (or subjects) you’re communicating about, and verbs and related words (or predicates) make statements about those subjects. In a complicated sentence, adjectives and adverbs modify the subject and predicate, and various connectors hold the words together.

5

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain how sentence style affects emphasis within your message.

CHOOSING FROM THE FOUR TYPES OF SENTENCES Sentences come in four basic varieties: simple, compound, complex, and compound–complex. A simple sentence has one main clause (a single subject and a single predicate), although it may be expanded by nouns and pronouns serving as objects of the action and by modifying phrases. Here’s a typical example (with the subject underlined once and the predicate verb underlined twice):

A simple sentence has one main clause.

Profits increased in the past year.

A compound sentence has two main clauses that express two or more independent but related thoughts of equal importance, usually joined by and, but, or or. In effect, a compound sentence is a merger of two or more simple sentences (independent clauses) that are related. For example,

A compound sentence has two main clauses.

Wage rates have declined by 5 percent, and employee turnover has been high.

The independent clauses in a compound sentence are always separated by a comma or by a semicolon (in which case the conjunction—and, but, or—is dropped). A complex sentence expresses one main thought (the independent clause) and one or more subordinate thoughts (dependent clauses) related to it, often separated by a comma. The subordinate thought, which comes first in the following sentence, could not stand alone:

A complex sentence has one main clause and one subordinate clause.

Although you may question Gerald’s conclusions, you must admit that his research is thorough.

A compound–complex sentence has two main clauses, at least one of which contains a subordinate clause: Profits have increased in the past year, and although you may question Gerald’s conclusions, you must admit that his research is thorough.

A compound–complex sentence has two main clauses and at least one dependent clause.

When constructing a sentence, choose the form that matches the relationship of the ideas you want to express. If you have two ideas of equal importance, express them as two simple sentences or as one compound sentence. However, if one idea is less important than the other, place it in a dependent clause to form a complex sentence. For example, although the following compound sentence uses a conjunction to join two ideas, they aren’t truly equal: The chemical products division is the strongest in the company, and its management techniques should be adopted by the other divisions.

By making the first thought subordinate to the second, you establish a causeand-effect relationship. The following complex sentence is much more effective

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because it clearly explains why the other divisions should adopt the chemical division’s management techniques: Because the chemical products division is the strongest in the company, its management techniques should be adopted by the other divisions.

To make your writing as effective as possible, strive for variety and balance using all four sentence types. If you use too many simple sentences, you won’t be able to express the relationships among your ideas properly, and your writing will sound choppy and abrupt. If you use too many long, compound sentences, your writing will sound monotonous. On the other hand, an uninterrupted series of complex or compound–complex sentences is hard to follow.

USING SENTENCE STYLE TO EMPHASIZE KEY THOUGHTS Emphasize parts of a sentence by • Devoting more words to them • Putting them at the beginning or at the end of the sentence • Making them the subject of the sentence

In every message, some ideas are more important than others. You can emphasize these key ideas through your sentence style. One obvious technique is to give important points the most space. When you want to call attention to a thought, use extra words to describe it. Consider this sentence: The chairperson of the board called for a vote of the shareholders.

To emphasize the importance of the chairperson, you might describe her more fully: Having considerable experience in corporate takeover battles, the chairperson of the board called for a vote of the shareholders.

You can increase the emphasis even more by adding a separate, short sentence to augment the first: The chairperson of the board called for a vote of the shareholders. She has considerable experience in corporate takeover battles.

You can also call attention to a thought by making it the subject of the sentence. In the following example, the emphasis is on the person: I can write letters much more quickly using a computer.

However, by changing the subject, the computer takes centre stage: The computer enables me to write letters much more quickly. You can adjust the emphasis given to a subordinate idea by placing the dependent clause at the beginning, middle, or end of the sentence.

Another way to emphasize an idea is to place it either at the beginning or at the end of a sentence: Less Emphatic: We are cutting the price to stimulate demand. More Emphatic: To stimulate demand, we are cutting the price. In complex sentences, the placement of the dependent clause hinges on the relationship between the ideas expressed. If you want to emphasize the idea, put the dependent clause at the end of the sentence (the most emphatic position) or at the beginning (the second most emphatic position). If you want to downplay the idea, bury the dependent clause within the sentence. Most Emphatic: The electronic parts are manufactured in Mexico, which has lower wage rates than Canada. Emphatic: Because wage rates are lower there, the electronic parts are manufactured in Mexico.

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Least Emphatic: Mexico, which has lower wage rates, was selected as the production point for the electronic parts. Techniques such as these give you a great deal of control over the way your audience interprets what you have to say.

Composing Your Message: Crafting Unified, Coherent Paragraphs After arranging precise words in effective sentences, your next step is to arrange those sentences into coherent paragraphs. Paragraphs organize sentences related to the same general topic. Readers expect every paragraph to be unified—focusing on a single topic—and coherent—presenting ideas in a logically connected way. By carefully arranging the elements of each paragraph, you help your readers grasp the main idea of your document and understand how the specific pieces of support material back up that idea.

CREATING THE ELEMENTS OF THE PARAGRAPH Paragraphs vary widely in length and form, but a typical paragraph contains three basic elements: a topic sentence, support sentences that develop the topic, and transitional words and phrases. TOPIC SENTENCE  An effective paragraph deals with a single topic and the sentence that introduces that topic is called the topic sentence. In informal and creative writing, the topic sentence may be implied rather than stated. In business writing, the topic sentence is generally explicit and is often the first sentence in the paragraph. The topic sentence gives readers a summary of the general idea that will be covered in the rest of the paragraph. The following examples show how a topic sentence can introduce the subject and suggest the way that subject will be developed:

Most paragraphs consist of • A topic sentence that reveals the subject of the paragraph • Related sentences that support and expand the topic • Transitional elements that help readers move between sentences and paragraphs

The medical products division has been troubled for many years by public relations problems. [In the rest of the paragraph, readers will learn the details of the problems.] Relocating the plant to St. John’s has two main disadvantages. [The disadvantages will be explained in subsequent sentences.] To get a refund, you must supply us with some additional information. [The details of the necessary information will be described in the rest of the paragraph.]

In addition to helping your readers, topic sentences help you as a writer because they remind you of the purpose of each paragraph and thereby help you stay focused. SUPPORT SENTENCES  In most paragraphs, the topic sentence needs to be explained, justified, or extended with one or more support sentences. These related sentences must all have a bearing on the general subject and must provide enough specific details to make the topic clear:

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nyul/Fotolia

The medical products division has been troubled for many years by public relations problems. Since 2008 the local newspaper has published 15 articles that portray the division in a negative light. We have been accused of everything from mistreating laboratory animals to polluting the local groundwater. Our facility has been described as a health hazard. Our scientists are referred to as “Frankensteins,” and our profits are considered “obscene.”

Even when reading online, your audience expects each paragraph to address one main idea and all the paragraphs in a document to link together logically. Besides devoting one idea to each paragraph, what other methods can you use to help readers comprehend your online documents?

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The support sentences are all more specific than the topic sentence. Each one provides another piece of evidence to demonstrate the general truth of the main thought. Also, each sentence is clearly related to the general idea being developed, which gives the paragraph its unity. A paragraph is well developed if it contains enough information to make the topic sentence convincing and interesting, and if it doesn’t contain any extraneous, unrelated sentences. Transitional elements include • Connecting words (conjunctions) • Repeated words or phrases • Pronouns • Words that are frequently paired

TRANSITIONS  Transitions connect ideas by showing how one thought is related to another. They also help alert the reader to what lies ahead so that shifts and changes don’t cause confusion. In addition to helping readers understand the connections you’re trying to make, transitions give your writing a smooth, even flow. Depending on the specific need within a document, transitional elements can range in length from a single word to an entire paragraph or more. You can establish transitions in a variety of ways: • Use connecting words: Use conjunctions such as and, but, or, nevertheless, however, in addition, and so on. • Echo a word or phrase from a previous paragraph or sentence: “A system should be established for monitoring inventory levels. This system will provide …” • Use a pronoun that refers to a noun used previously: “Ms. Kim is the leading candidate for the president’s position. She has excellent qualifications.” • Use words that are frequently paired: “The machine has a minimum output of … Its maximum output is …” Some transitional elements alert the reader to a change in mood from the previous material. Some announce a total contrast with what’s gone on before, some announce a causal relationship, and some signal a change in time. Here is a list of transitions frequently used to move readers smoothly between clauses, sentences, and paragraphs: Additional detail: moreover, furthermore, in addition, besides, first, second, third, finally Causal relationship: therefore, because, accordingly, thus, consequently, hence, as a result, so Comparison: similarly, here again, likewise, in comparison, still Contrast: yet, conversely, whereas, nevertheless, on the other hand, however, but, nonetheless Condition: although, if Illustration: for example, in particular, in this case, for instance Time sequence: formerly, after, when, meanwhile, sometimes Intensification: indeed, in fact, in any event Summary: in brief, in short, to sum up Repetition: that is, in other words, as I mentioned earlier Consider using a transition whenever it might help the reader understand your ideas and follow you from point to point. You can use transitions inside paragraphs to tie related points together and between paragraphs to ease the shift from one distinct thought to another. In longer reports, a transition that links major sections or chapters is often a complete paragraph that serves as a

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mini-introduction to the next section or as a summary of the ideas presented in the section just ending. Here’s an example: Given the nature of this product, the alternatives are limited. As the previous section indicates, we can stop making it altogether, improve it, or continue with the current model. Each alternative has advantages and disadvantages, which are discussed in the following section.

This paragraph makes it clear to the reader that the analysis of the problem (offered in the previous section) is now over and that the document is making a transition to an analysis of alternatives (to be offered in the next section). Keep in mind that transitions are not a substitute for effective organization. Put your ideas into a strong framework first, and then use transitions to link them together even more strongly.

CHOOSING THE BEST WAY TO DEVELOP EACH PARAGRAPH Unification and coherence strongly depend on how you develop your paragraphs. Five of the most common development techniques are illustration, comparison or contrast, cause and effect, classification, and problem and solution (see Table 5–6).

Table 5–6

6

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Cite five ways to develop coherent paragraphs.

Five Techniques for Developing Paragraphs

Technique

Description

Example

Illustration

Giving examples that demonstrate the general idea

Some of our most popular products are available through local distributors. For example, Everett & Lemmings carries our frozen soups and entrées. The J. B. Green Company carries our complete line of seasonings, as well as the frozen soups. Wilmont Foods, also a major distributor, now carries our new line of frozen desserts.

Comparison or contrast

Using similarities or differences to develop the topic

When the company was small, the recruiting function could be handled informally. The need for new employees was limited, and each manager could comfortably screen and hire her or his own staff. However, our successful bid on the Owens contract means that we will be doubling our labour force over the next six months. To hire that many people without disrupting our ongoing activities, we will create a separate recruiting group within the human resources department.

Cause and effect

Focusing on the reasons for something

The heavy-duty fabric of your Wanderer tent probably broke down for one of two reasons: 1. A sharp object punctured the fabric, and without reinforcement, the hole was enlarged by the stress of pitching the tent daily for a week, or 2. The fibres gradually rotted because the tent was folded and stored while still wet.

Classification

Showing how a general idea is broken into specific categories

Successful candidates for our supervisor trainee program generally come from one of several groups. The largest group, by far, consists of recent graduates of accredited business management programs. The next largest group comes from within our own company, as we try to promote promising workers to positions of greater responsibility. Finally, we do occasionally accept candidates with outstanding supervisory experience in related industries.

Problem and solution

Presenting a problem and then discussing the solution

Selling handmade toys online is a challenge because consumers are accustomed to buying heavily advertised toys from major chain stores or well-known websites such as Amazon.ca. However, if we develop an appealing website, we can compete on the basis of product novelty and quality. In addition, we can provide unusual crafts at a competitive price: a rocking horse of birch with a hand-knit tail and mane; a music box with the child’s name painted on the top.

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In practice, you’ll occasionally combine two or more methods of development in a single paragraph. Before settling for the first approach that comes to mind, consider the alternatives so that your message is communicated with clarity and meaning.

Using Technology to Compose and Shape Your Messages Take full advantage of your software’s capabilities to help you produce effective, professional messages in less time.

Careful and informed use of technology can help you compose and shape better messages in less time. Software (including word processors and online publishing systems for websites and blogs) provides a wide range of tools to help writers compose documents: • Style sheets, style sets, templates, and themes. Style sheets, style sets, templates, and themes are various ways of ensuring consistency throughout a document and from document to document. These tools also make it easy to redesign an entire document or screen simply by redefining the various styles or selecting a different design theme. Style sheets or sets are collections of formatting choices for words, paragraphs, and other elements. Rather than manually formatting every element, you simply select one of the available styles. Templates usually set overall document parameters such as page size and provide a specific set of styles to use. Templates can be particularly handy if you create a variety of document types, such as letters, calendars, agendas, and so on. Themes tend to address the overall look and feel of the page or screen, including colour palettes and background images. • Boilerplate and document components. Boilerplate refers to a standard block of saved text that is reused in multiple documents. Moving beyond simple text blocks, some systems can store fully formatted document components such as cover pages and sidebars. • Autocorrection or autocompletion. Some programs can automate text entry and correction using a feature called autocompletion, autocorrection, or something similar. In Microsoft Word, for example, the AutoCorrect feature lets you build a library of actions that automatically fill in longer entries based on the first few characters you type (such as entering a full description of the company after you type the word boilerplate) or correct common typing errors (such as typing teh instead of the). Use these features carefully, though. First, they can make changes you might not want in every instance. Second, you may grow to rely on them to clean up your typing, but they won’t be there to help when you’re using other systems. • File merge and mail merge. Most word-processing software makes it easy to combine files, which is an especially handy feature when several members of a team write different sections of a report. Mail merge lets you personalize form letters by automatically inserting names and addresses from a database. • Endnotes, footnotes, indexes, and tables of contents. Your computer can help you track footnotes and endnotes, renumbering them every time you add or delete references. For a report’s indexes and table of contents, you can simply flag the items you want to include and the software assembles the lists for you. As with other forms of communication technology, using these tools efficiently and effectively requires some balance. You need to learn enough about the features to be handy with them, without spending so much time that the tools distract you from the writing process. For a reminder of the tasks involved in writing your messages, see “Checklist: Writing Business Messages.”

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✓Checklist

Writing Business Messages • Pay attention to the connotative meaning of your words. • Balance abstract and concrete terms to convey your meaning accurately. • Avoid clichés and trendy buzzwords. • Use jargon only when your audience understands it and prefers it. • Vary your sentence structure for impact and interest. • Develop coherent, unified paragraphs. • Use transitional elements generously to help your audience follow your message.

A. Adapt to your audience. • Use the “you” attitude. • Maintain good etiquette through polite communication. • Emphasize the positive whenever possible. • Use bias-free language. • Establish your credibility in the eyes of your audience. • Project your company’s preferred image. • Use a conversational but still professional and respectful tone. • Use plain language for clarity. B. Compose your message. • Choose precise words that communicate efficiently. • Make sure you use functional and content words correctly.

SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1 Explain the importance of adapting your messages to the needs and expectations of your audience. Your audience wants to know why you are communicating with them and how your message will benefit them. By showing awareness of their needs and expectations, you are answering their question “What’s in it for me?” and establishing a good relationship. Practising the “you” attitude, emphasizing the positive, and using bias-free language will also demonstrate your sensitivity to your audience.

2 Explain why establishing credibility is vital to the success of your communication efforts. Your audiences will more likely accept your messages if you establish your credibility with them. Behaving honestly, objectively, reliably, and sincerely, and showing your awareness of your audiences’ needs, demonstrate your credibility and will make your audiences more likely to respond positively to you. Establishing your credentials and expertise will communicate your credibility to audiences that don’t know you, thus making them more receptive to your messages.

3 Discuss how to achieve a businesslike tone with a style that is clear and concise. You can achieve a businesslike tone by using plain language, which is language that is easily understood. Plain language avoids pompous and out-of-date phrases; in their place, it uses accessible and current vocabulary that audiences with a grade 8 or grade 9 education can easily understand. Using the active voice instead of the passive voice is another way to achieve a businesslike tone. Where the passive voice tends to create a dull and indirect style, the active voice is lively and direct. However, the passive voice is useful when you

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must be diplomatic with your audience, because its indirect nature can create an objective tone.

4 Describe how to select words that are not only correct but also effective. To select the best words, first make sure they are correct by checking grammar and usage guides. Next, make sure the words you select are effective by knowing how to use functional and content words. Choose words that have fewer connotations and no negative connotations. Blend abstract words with concrete ones, narrowing from the general to the specific, and select words that communicate clearly and specifically. Avoid clichés, and use jargon only if your audience will understand it.

5 Explain how sentence style affects emphasis within your message. The emphasis of key ideas in your message is influenced by sentence style. For example, using more words to describe ideas will give them greater stress. You can also make your ideas the subject of sentences or place them at the beginning or end of sentences; these techniques will highlight your ideas. Being familiar with the four types of sentences (simple, compound, complex, and compound–complex) will assist you in giving emphasis to your information and thoughts.

6 Cite five ways to develop coherent paragraphs. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence that expresses the main idea and uses transitional elements for unity. Paragraphs can be developed by illustration (giving examples), by comparison and contrast (pointing out similarities or differences), by focusing on cause and effect (giving reasons), by classification (discussing categories), and by focusing on the solution to a problem (stating a problem and showing how to solve it).

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ON THE JOB

PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT CREATIVE COMMONS

To achieve their mission of popularizing a new approach to copyrighting songs, artwork, literature, and other creative works, the staff at Creative Commons need to convince people that the traditional approach to copyright doesn’t meet the needs of today’s digital society. This is no small challenge: not only do they need to persuade people to reconsider more than 200 years of legal precedent and habit, they also need to communicate with an extremely diverse audience—everyone from lawyers and business managers to artists, writers, musicians, and scientists. In the third year of your business program, you’ve joined Creative Commons as a communication intern. Apply your knowledge of effective writing to the following three scenarios:17 1. A key part of the communication challenge for Creative Commons is translating legal documents into language that musicians, artists, and others with no legal training can easily understand. Which of the following does the best job of adapting the following legal phrase (which is part of the licensing contracts) into language for a general audience?

anybody is free to use material in any way they please). Review the structure of the following four sentences and choose the one that does the best job of emphasizing the importance of the “spectrum of possibilities.”

The above rights may be exercised in all media and formats whether now known or hereafter devised. The above rights include the right to make such modifications as are technically necessary to exercise the rights in other media and formats.

3. Like many other organizations these days, Creative Commons must occasionally deal with online rumours spread by bloggers who aren’t always sure of their facts. You’ve been asked to reply to an email query from a National Post reporter who read a blog rumour that Creative Commons’s real objective is to destroy ownership of all copyrights. Which of the following has the right style and tone for your response?

a. The rights granted by this licensing contract extend to any current or future media, and you also have the right to modify the material as needed to meet the technical needs of any media. b. You may use this material in any present or future media and modify it as needed to work with any media. c. Be advised that your rights within the scope of this contract include the right to use this material in any media that either exists now or might be devised in the future. Moreover, you are also granted the right to modify the material as any current or future media might technically demand. d. You are hereby granted the right to use this material in any media, including modifications required by that media. 2. The single most important concept in the Creative Commons approach is the idea of a spectrum of possibilities between all rights reserved (a conventional copyright) and no rights reserved (being in the public domain, where

a. Conventional copyright, in which the creator reserves all rights to a work, and the public domain, in which the creator gives up all rights, represent two black-andwhite extremes. b. Between the all-or-nothing extremes of a conventional copyright and being in the public domain, Creative Commons sees a need for other possibilities. c. The primary contribution of Creative Commons is developing a range of possibilities between the extremes of all rights reserved (conventional copyright) and no rights reserved (public domain). d. The black-and-white choice of all rights reserved (conventional copyright) and no rights reserved (public domain) does not meet everyone’s needs, so Creative Commons is developing a range of possibilities between these two extremes.

a. That blog posting is an absolute crock. The person who wrote it is either a liar or a fool. b. As our website and other materials strive to make clear, the objective of Creative Commons is to work within the framework of existing copyright law but to establish a range of possibilities for people whose needs aren’t met by conventional copyright choices. c. You wouldn’t believe how much time and energy we have to spend defending ourselves against idiotic rumours like this. d. Creative Commons has never expressed, in print or in online materials, nor in any speeches or presentations given by any of our current or former staff or board members, any plans or strategies that would allow anyone to reach a valid conclusion that our intent is to weaken existing copyright protections.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. How is your audience likely to respond to a message that doesn’t seem to be about their concerns or is written in language they don’t understand?

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2. What is the “you” attitude, and why is it important? 3. What contributes to a communicator’s credibility?

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4. What is plain language, and why is it important? 5. What are the characteristics of bias-free language? 6. How can you avoid a pompous and preachy tone in your messages? 7. What is the difference between denotative language and connotative language?

8. What is the difference between abstract words and concrete words? 9. How can different sentence types emphasize key thoughts? 10. How can word-processing tools help you create your messages more efficiently?

APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. How can you apply the “you” approach when you don’t know your audience personally? 2. When composing business messages, how can you be yourself and project your company’s image at the same time? 3. What steps can you take to make abstract concepts such as opportunity feel more concrete in your messages? 4. Considering how fast and easy it is, should instant messaging completely replace meetings and other face-to-face communication in your company? Why or why not?

5. Ethical Choices In Canada it is estimated that 6 percent of children and 4 percent of adults have food allergies. Every year at least 30 000 of these people end up in the emergency room after suffering an allergic reaction, and every year approximately 200 of them die. Many of these tragic events are tied to poorly written food labels that either fail to identify dangerous allergens or use scientific terms that most consumers don’t recognize.18 Do food manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure that consumers read, understand, and follow warnings on food products? Explain your answer.

RUNNING CASES > CASE 1  Noreen Now that the letter has gone to the service station owners/ operators informing them of the upcoming promotion (see the case in Chapter 4), Noreen’s manager at Petro-Go has asked her to send an informative promotional letter to all existing Canadian “Go Points” customers. The promotion details are as follows: 1. Canadian cardholders will now receive double points when they purchase more than $30 of gasoline in one visit (regular points up to $30 then double points over $30). 2. There is a new reward redemption available—Petro-Go gift certificates ($20 certificate for a 250-point redemption). 3. A gift of a 6-litre container of windshield washer fluid is available when accumulated points reach each 1000-point interval. Of course, the letter must be approved by the manager before it will be distributed.

QUESTIONS a. Is the direct or indirect approach best for this message? Why? b. How will Noreen use the “you” attitude in the letter? c. Why is it so important that Noreen’s letter use bias-free language? d. How will this letter differ in tone from the one sent to the employees? e. What considerations will Noreen think of when developing the paragraphs of the letter? YOUR TASK Create the letter. Apply the skills you have learned in Chapters 4 and 5. (Remember to create a company logo.) Now, consider how Noreen would put this information into a webpage. Write a list of factors she would have to consider when adding this information to the existing company website.

> CASE 2 Kwong Kwong is working on producing a promotional letter for Accountants For All accounting firm that will entice past customers to return this upcoming tax season. He has checked the database and discovered addresses and email accounts for past customers. He informs his manager of his plan to email all past customers with the promotional news as well as deliver

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the letter through postal mail. The main promotional points Kwong wishes to convey are these: 1. 20% discount for repeat customers 2. 10% discount for families of four or more, students, or seniors 3. Only one promotional discount may be applied

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QUESTIONS a. How should Kwong begin the letter? b. How will Kwong emphasize the promotional discounts? c. How will he make the message easier to read? d. How should the subject line read in the email message? e. Why send email and postal mail?

YOUR TASK Create the letter. Apply the skills you have learned in Chapters 4 and 5. (Remember to create a company logo.) Once the letter is complete, create the email message. Apply the skills you have learned in Chapters 4 and 5.

PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE Read the following document, then (1) analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each sentence and (2) revise the document so that it follows this chapter’s guidelines. I am a new publisher with some really great books to sell. I saw your announcement in Publishers Weekly about the bookseller’s show you’re having this summer, and I think it’s a great idea. Count me in, folks! I would like to get some space to show my books. I thought it would be a neat thing if I could do some airbrushing on T-shirts live to help promote my hot new title, T-Shirt Art. Before I got into publishing, I was an airbrush artist, and I could demonstrate my techniques. I’ve done hundreds of advertising illustrations and have been

a sign painter all my life, so I’ll also be promoting my other book, hot off the presses, How to Make Money in the Sign Painting Business. I will be starting my PR campaign about May with ads in PW and some art trade papers, so my books should be well known by the time the show comes around in August. In case you would like to use my appearance there as part of your publicity, I have enclosed a biography and photo of myself. P.S. Please let me know what it costs for booth space as soon as possible so that I can figure out whether I can afford to attend. Being a new publisher is pretty expensive!

EXERCISES 5.1 Audience Relationship: Courteous Communication Substitute a better phrase for each of the following: a. You claim that b. It is not our policy to c. You neglected to d. In which you assert e. We are sorry you are dissatisfied f. You failed to enclose g. We request that you send us h. Apparently you overlooked our terms i. We have been very patient j. We are at a loss to understand

5.2 Audience Relationship: The “You” Attitude Rewrite these sentences to reflect your audience’s viewpoint: a. Your email order cannot be processed; we request that you use the order form on our website instead. b. We insist that you always bring your credit card to the store. c. We want to get rid of all our 15-inch LCD screens to make room in our warehouse for the new 19-, 23-, and 35-inch monitors. Thus, we are offering a 25 percent discount on all sales of 15-inch models this week. d. I am applying for the position of bookkeeper in your office. I feel my grades prove that I am bright and capable, and I think I can do a good job for you.

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e. As requested, we are sending the refund for $25. f. If you cared about doing a good job, you would’ve made the extra effort required to learn how to use the machinery properly. g. Your strategy presentation this morning absolutely blew me away; there’s no way we can fail with all the brilliant ideas you’ve pulled together—I’m so glad you’re running the company now! h. Regarding your email message from September 28 regarding the slow payment of your invoice, it’s important for you to realize that we’ve just undergone a massive upgrade of our accounts payable system and payments have been delayed for everybody, not just you. i. I know I’m late with the asset valuation report, but I haven’t been feeling well and I just haven’t had the energy needed to work through the numbers yet.

5.3 Audience Relationship: Emphasize the Positive Revise these sentences to be positive rather than negative: a. To avoid damage to your credit rating, please remit payment within 10 days. b. We don’t make refunds on returned merchandise that is soiled. c. Because we are temporarily out of Baby Cry dolls, we won’t be able to ship your order for 10 days. d. You failed to specify the colour of the blouse that you ordered.

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e. You should have realized that waterbeds will freeze in unheated houses during winter. Therefore, our guarantee does not cover the valve damage. You must pay the $22.50 valve-replacement fee (plus postage).

5.4 Audience Relationship: Emphasize the Positive Provide euphemisms for the following words and phrases: a. stubborn b. wrong c. stupid d. incompetent e. loudmouth

5.5 Audience Relationship: Bias-Free Language Rewrite each of the following to eliminate bias: a. A skilled artisan, the Indian Alice Beaver is especially known for her beadwork. b. He needs a wheelchair, but he doesn’t let his handicap affect his job performance. c. A pilot must have the ability to stay calm under pressure and then he must be trained to cope with any problem that arises. d. Candidate Renata Parsons, married and the mother of a teenager, will attend the debate. e. Senior citizen Sam Nugent is still an active salesperson.

5.6 Ethical Choices Your company has been a major employer in the local community for years, but shifts in the global marketplace have forced some changes in the company’s long-term direction. In fact, the company plans to reduce local staffing by as much as 50 percent over the next 5 to 10 years, starting with a small layoff next month. The size and timing of future layoffs has not been decided, although there is little doubt more layoffs will happen at some point. In the first draft of a letter aimed at community leaders, you write that “this first layoff is part of a continuing series of staff reductions anticipated over the next several years.” However, your boss is concerned about the vagueness and negative tone of the language and asks you to rewrite that sentence to read, “This layoff is part of the company’s ongoing efforts to continually align its resources with global market conditions.” Do you think this suggested wording is ethical, given the company’s economic influence in the community? Please explain your answer.

5.7 Message Composition: Controlling Style Rewrite the following letter to Mrs. Betty Crandall (RR #1 New Norway, AB T0B 3L0) so that it conveys a helpful, personal, and interested tone: We have your letter of recent date to our Ms. Dobson. Owing to the fact that you neglected to include the size of the dress you ordered, please be advised that no shipment of your order was made, but the aforementioned shipment will occur at such time as we are in receipt of the aforementioned information.

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5.8 Message Composition: Selecting Powerful Words Write a concrete phrase for each of these vague phrases (make up any information you need): a. sometime this spring b. a substantial saving c. a large number attended d. increased efficiency e. expanded the work area f. flatten the website structure g. an incredible computer

5.9 Message Composition: Selecting Powerful Words List terms that are stronger than the following: a. ran after b. seasonal ups and downs c. bright d. suddenly rises e. moves forward

5.10 Message Composition: Selecting Powerful Words As you rewrite these sentences, replace the clichés with fresh, personal expressions: a. Being a jack-of-all-trades, Dave worked well in his new general manager job. b. Moving Truc into the accounting department, where she was literally a fish out of water, was like putting a square peg into a round hole, if you get my drift. c. I knew she was at death’s door, but I thought the doctor would pull her through. d. Movies aren’t really my cup of tea; as far as I am concerned, they can’t hold a candle to a good book. e. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there in the rat race of the asphalt jungle.

5.11 Message Composition: Selecting Powerful Words Suggest short, simple words to replace each of the following: a. inaugurate b. terminate c. utilize d. anticipate e. assistance f. endeavour g. ascertain h. procure i. consummate j. advise k. alteration l. forwarded m. fabricate n. nevertheless o. substantial

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142 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

5.12 Message Composition: Selecting Powerful Words Write up-to-date, less-stuffy versions of these phrases; write none if you think there is no appropriate substitute: a. As per your instructions b. Attached herewith c. In lieu of d. In reply I wish to state e. Please be advised that

5.13 Message Composition: Creating Effective Sentences Suppose that end-of-term frustrations have produced this email message to Professor Anne Brewer from a student who believes he should have received a B in his accounting class. If this message were recast into three or four clear sentences, the teacher might be more receptive to the student’s argument. Rewrite the message to show how you would improve it: I think that I was unfairly awarded a C in your accounting class this term, and I am asking you to change the grade to a B. It was a difficult term. I don’t get any money from home, and I have to work mornings at the Pancake House (as a cook), so I had to rush to make your class, and those two times that I missed class were because they wouldn’t let me off work because of special events at the Pancake House (unlike some other students who just take off when they choose). On the midterm examination, I originally got a 75 percent, but you said in class that there were two different ways to answer the third question and that you would change the grades of students who used the “optimal cost” method and had been counted off 6 points for doing this. I don’t think that you took this into account, because I got 80 percent on the final, which is clearly a B. Anyway, whatever you decide, I just want to tell you that I really enjoyed this class, and I thank you for making accounting so interesting.

5.14 Message Composition: Creating Effective Sentences Rewrite each sentence so that it is active rather than passive: a. The raw data are entered into the customer relationship management system by the sales representative each Friday. b. High profits are publicized by management. c. The policies announced in the directive were implemented by the staff. d. Our computers are serviced by the Santee Company. e. The employees were represented by Janet Hogan.

5.15 Message Composition: Writing Effective Paragraphs In the following paragraph, identify the topic sentence and the related sentences (those that support the idea of the topic sentence): Sync in a snap with Auto-Sync. By default, iTunes automatically copies your entire music library to your iPod and deletes songs on your iPod that are not listed in iTunes. Or you can use Playlist Sync and select the playlists you want to sync

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with your iPod. If you have more songs in your iTunes library than you can fit on your iPod, let iTunes create a playlist to fill your iPod, or just update your iPod by dragging over individual songs.19

Now add a topic sentence to this paragraph: Our analysis of the customer experience should start before golfers even drive through the front gate here at Glencoe Meadows; it should start when they phone in or log on to our website to reserve tee times. When they do arrive, the first few stages in the process are also vital: the condition of the grounds leading up to the club house, the reception they receive when they drop off their clubs, and the ease of parking. From that point, how well are we doing with check-in at the pro shop, openings at the driving range, and timely scheduling at the first tee? Then there’s everything associated with playing the course itself and returning to the clubhouse at the end of the round.

5.16 Teamwork: Paragraph Techniques Working with four other students, divide the following five topics among yourselves and each write one paragraph on his or her selected topic. Be sure each student uses a different technique when writing his or her paragraph: one student should use the illustration technique, one the comparison or contrast technique, one a discussion of cause and effect, one the classification technique, and one a discussion of problem and solution. Then exchange paragraphs within the team and pick out the main idea and general purpose of the paragraph one of your teammates wrote. Was everyone able to correctly identify the main idea and purpose? If not, suggest how the paragraph might be rewritten for clarity. a. Types of digital cameras (or dogs or automobiles) available for sale b. Advantages and disadvantages of eating at fast-food restaurants c. Finding that first full-time job d. Good qualities of my car (or house, or apartment, or neighbourhood) e. How to make a dessert recipe (or barbecue a steak or make coffee)

5.17 Internet: Plain Language Visit the Investor Education Fund website (www.getsmarteraboutmoney.ca) and review the information under the Planning tab. Does the information follow the plain-language guidelines described in this chapter? Can you suggest any improvements to organization, words, sentences, or paragraphs?

5.18 Message Organization: Transitional Elements Add transitional elements to the following sentences to improve the flow of ideas. (Note: You may need to eliminate or add some words to smooth out your sentences.) a. Steve Case saw infinite possibilities in online business. Steve Case was determined to turn his vision into reality. The

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techies scoffed at his strategy of building a simple Internet service for ordinary people. Case doggedly pursued his dream. He analyzed other online services. He assessed the needs of his customers. He responded to their desires for an easier way to access information over the Internet. In 1992, Steve Case named his company America Online (AOL). Critics predicted the company’s demise. By the end of the century, AOL was a profitable powerhouse. An illfated merger with Time Warner was a financial disaster and led to Case’s ousting from the company. b. Facing some of the toughest competitors in the world, Harley-Davidson had to make some changes. The company introduced new products. Harley’s management team set out to rebuild the company’s production process. New products were coming to market, and the company was turning a profit. Harley’s quality standards were not on par with those of its foreign competitors. Harley’s costs were still among the highest in the industry. Harley made a U-turn and restructured the company’s organizational structure. Harley’s efforts have paid off. c. Whether you’re indulging in a doughnut in Charlottetown or Vancouver, Tim Hortons wants you to enjoy the same

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delicious taste with every bite. The company maintains consistent product quality by carefully controlling every step of the production process. Tim Hortons tests all raw ingredients against established quality standards. Every delivery of wheat flour is sampled and measured for its moisture content and protein levels. Tim Hortons blends the ingredients. Tim Hortons tests the doughnut mix for quality. Tim Hortons delivers the mix to its stores. Financial critics have recognized Tim Hortons’s success. Product innovations have shown that the company has a bright future.

5.19 Ethical Choices: Connotative Language Under what circumstances would you consider the use of terms that are high in connotative meaning to be ethical? When would you consider it to be unethical? Explain your reasoning.

5.20 Plain Language Go through this chapter and find examples of slang, clichés, jargon, and business speak. Try to replace these words with plain language.

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6

Completing Business Messages

LEARNING OBJECTIVES  After studying this chapter, you will be able to

1

Discuss the value of careful revision, and list the main tasks involved in completing a business message

5

Explain how design elements help determine the effectiveness of your documents

2

Explain four writing techniques you can use to improve the readability of your messages

6

Highlight the types of errors to look for when proofreading

3

Describe the steps you can take to improve the clarity of your writing

7

Discuss the most important issues to consider when distributing your messages

4

Discuss why it’s important to make your message more concise, and give four tips on how to do so

ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT

MyLab Business Communication  Visit MyLab Business Communication to access a variety of online resources directly related to this chapter’s content..

FREE THE CHILDREN Engaging Young Audiences for Social Change

Photo Courtesy of Free The Children

www.WE.org

Founder of WE, Craig Kielburger has received numerous awards for his work, including the Nelson Mandela Human Rights Award. His organization shows young people that they are able to help children around the world by getting involved in Free The Children’s educational programs.

How does an organization communicate its mission, particularly if it is a charity? How can an organization inspire young people to join that mission and help change the world? Since its founding in 1995 by 12-year-old Craig Kielburger, Toronto-based Free The Children (now known as WE) has motivated youth to raise funds or work on projects fulfilling the organization’s vision of improving the lives of impoverished children around the world. Its achievements include building more than 650 schools and school rooms, distributing over 207 000 school and health kits, and helping more than 500 000 people get access to health care. Overall, more than 1 million children and young adults have become involved in programs in over 45 countries. Kielburger was himself inspired to start the organization when reading about a young Pakistani boy who escaped from working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in a carpet factory and began speaking out about the rights of children. To focus international attention on child labour abuses, Kielburger soon went on a fact-finding mission to Southeast Asia, drawing media attention and raising the issue of child labour to worldwide prominence. From that time, WE has grown to become a major force in improving lives through “children helping children through education.” The challenge faced by WE is to continue engaging young people, as well as expand its extensive network of corporate

144

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and nonprofit partners. A key part of this effort is the WE interactive website, where visitors can learn about WE by reading blogs and viewing videos showcasing international projects. Directed toward a young web-savvy audience, the website is an educational portal that not only explains WE’s mission but also inspires visitors to join in improving the global community.

Maintaining WE’s online appeal requires attention to detail. Layout, photos, video, and interactive features all contribute to its continuing strength. If you volunteered to help WE maintain its website, what details would you pinpoint for revision? What process would you follow to keep it fresh and inviting to its young audience?1

Revising Your Message: Evaluating the First Draft Professional communicators recognize that the first draft is rarely as tight, clear, and compelling as it needs to be. Careful revision can mean the difference between a rambling, unfocused message and a lively, direct message that gets results. Figure 6–1 lists the tasks in the third step of the three-step writing process: revising your message to achieve optimum quality, then producing, proofreading, and distributing it. The revision process varies somewhat, depending on the medium and the nature of your message. For informal messages to internal audiences, particularly when using instant messaging (IM), text messaging, email, or blogging, the revision process is often as simple as quickly looking over your message to correct any mistakes before sending or posting it. However, don’t fall into the common trap of thinking that these electronic media are so new and different and informal that you don’t need to worry about grammar, spelling, clarity, and other fundamentals of good writing. These qualities can be even more important in electronic media, not less, particularly if these messages are the only contact your audience has with you. Audiences are likely to equate the quality of your writing with the quality of your thinking, decision making, and other business skills. Moreover, even minor errors can cause confusion, frustration, and costly delays.

1

Planning

2

Writing

3

The time required for revision can vary from just a moment or two for a simple message to many hours or even days for a complex report or multimedia document.

In any medium, readers tend to equate the quality of your writing with the quality of your thinking.

Completing

Revise the Message Evaluate content and review readability, then edit and rewrite for conciseness and clarity. Produce the Message Use effective design elements and suitable layout for a clean, professional appearance. Proofread the Message Review for errors in layout, spelling, and mechanics. Distribute the Message Deliver your message using the chosen medium; make sure all documents and all relevant files are distributed successfully. Figure 6–1  Step 3 in the Three-Step Writing Process: Complete Your Message

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146 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

Delauny Music 56 Spring Gardens Road Halifax, NS B2J 3R1 (902) 555-5555 delaunymusic.net

June 21, 2018 Ms. Claudia Banks 112 Barrington Street Halifax, NS B9J 1Q8

Need 7 blank lines here

Dear Ms. Banks: The two circled sentences say essentially the same thing, so this edit combines them into one sentence.

On behalf of everyone at Delauny Music, it is my pleasure to thank you for your recent purchase of a Yamaha CG1 grand piano. The Cg1 carries more than a century of Yamaha’s heritage in design and production of world-class musical instruments and you can bet it will give you many years of playing and listening pleasure. Our commitment to your satisfaction doesn’t stop with your purchase, however. Much to the contrary, it continues for as long as you own your piano, which we hope, of course, is for as long as you live. As a vital first step, please remember to call us your local Yamaha dealer, sometime within three to eight months after your piano was delivered to take advantage of the free Yamaha ServicebondSM Assurance adjustment Program. This free service program includes a thorough evaluation and adjusting of

Changing adjusting to adjustment makes it parallel with evaluation. Replacing its with your piano’s avoids any confusion about which noun that it is supposed to replace.

The sentence beginning with “Much to the contrary . . . ” is awkward and unnecessary.

the instrument after you’ve had some time to play your piano and your piano has had time to adapt to its environment. important In addition to this vital service appointment, a regular program of tuning is your piano’s absolutely essential to ensure its impeccable performance. Our piano specialists recommend four tunings during the first year and two tunings every year thereafter dealer that. As your local Yamaha we are ideally positioned to provide you with optimum service for both regular tuning and any maintenance or repair needs you may have . over the years.

The simple complimentary close replaces a close that was stylistically over the top.

The phrase you can bet is too informal for this message.

All of us at Delauny Music thank you for your recent purchase and wish you many We many, years of satisfaction with your new Yamaha CG1 grand piano. Sincerely, Respectfully yours in beautiful music,

This edit inserts a missing word (dealer). This group of edits removes unnecessary words in several places.

Madeline Delauny Owner

tjr

Common Proofreading Symbols

strikethrough

Delete text Delete individual character or a circled block of text Insert text (text to insert is written above) Insert period Insert comma Start new line Start new paragraph Capitalize

Figure 6–2  Improving a Customer Letter through Careful Revision

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Delauny Music 56 Spring Gardens Road Halifax, NS B2J 3R1 (902) 555-5555 delaunymusic.net

June 21, 2018

Ms. Claudia Banks 112 Barrington Street Halifax, NS B9J 1Q8 Dear Ms. Banks: Thank you for your recent purchase. We wish you many years of satisfaction with your new Yamaha CG1 grand piano. The CG1 carries more than a century of Yamaha’s heritage in design and production of world-class musical instruments and will give you many years of playing and listening pleasure. Our commitment to your satisfaction doesn’t stop with your purchase, however. As a vital first step, please remember to call us sometime within three to eight months after your piano was delivered to take advantage of the Yamaha ServicebondSM Assurance Program. This free service program includes a thorough evaluation and adjustment of the instrument after you’ve had some time to play your piano and your piano has had time to adapt to its environment. In addition to this important service appointment, a regular program of tuning is essential to ensure your piano’s impeccable performance. Our piano specialists recommend four tunings during the first year and two tunings every year thereafter. As your local Yamaha dealer, we are ideally positioned to provide you with optimum service for both regular tuning and any maintenance or repair needs you may have. Sincerely,

Madeline Delauny Owner tjr

Figure 6–3  Revised Customer Letter

Fortunately, revising simple messages doesn’t take much time or effort. With IM, for example, you need only a second or two to skim each message to make sure you haven’t said something clumsy or incorrect. With more complex messages, try to put your draft aside for a day or two before you begin the revision process so that you can approach the material with a fresh eye. Then start with the “big picture,” making sure that the document accomplishes your overall goals before moving to finer points, such as readability, clarity, and conciseness. If you are unsure about the clarity of your message, it is helpful to have a colleague read your draft. Ask for concrete comments, such as where wording or tone can be improved. Compare the messages in Figures 6–2 and 6–3 for an example of how careful revision can improve a letter: the revised version provides the requested information more clearly, in an organized way, with a friendlier style, and with precise mechanics. The proofreading symbols are still widely used when printed documents are edited and revised. However, in many instances, you’ll use the electronic markup features in your word processor or other software, as shown in Figure 6–5 on page 159.

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For longer documents, try to put aside your draft for a day or two before you begin the revision process.

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148 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

EVALUATING YOUR CONTENT, ORGANIZATION, STYLE, AND TONE 1

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Discuss the value of careful revision, and list the main tasks involved in completing a business message.

When you begin the revision process, focus your attention on content, organization, style, and tone. To evaluate the content of your message, ask yourself these questions: • Is the information accurate? • Is the information relevant to your audience? • Is there enough information to satisfy your reader’s needs? • Is there a good balance between general information (giving readers enough background information to appreciate the message) and specific information (giving readers the details they need to understand the message)? When you are satisfied with the content of your message, review its organization. Ask yourself another set of questions: • Are all your points covered in the most logical order? • Do the most important ideas receive the most space, and are they placed in the most prominent positions? • Would the message be more convincing if it were arranged in another sequence? • Are any points repeated unnecessarily? • Are details grouped together logically, or are some still scattered through the document? • If you need further information, have you provided an end date and contact information?

The beginning and end of a message have the greatest impact on your readers.

Next consider whether you have achieved the right style and tone for your audience. Is your writing formal enough to meet the audience’s expectations without being too formal or academic? Is it too casual for a serious subject? Does your message emphasize the audience’s needs over your own? Spend a few extra moments on the beginning and end of your message; these sections have the greatest impact on the audience. Be sure the opening of your document is relevant and geared to the reader’s probable reaction. In longer documents, check that the first few paragraphs establish the subject, purpose, and organization of the material. Review the conclusion to ensure that it summarizes the main idea and leaves the audience with a positive impression.

EVALUATING, EDITING, AND REVISING THE WORK OF OTHERS

Before you evaluate and revise someone else’s writing, make sure you understand the writer’s intent with the message.

At many points in your career, you will be asked to evaluate, edit, or revise the work of others. Whether you’re suggesting improvements or actually making the improvements yourself (as you might on a wiki site, for example), you can make a contribution by using all the skills you have learned in Chapters 4 and 5 and in this chapter. Before you dive into someone else’s work, recognize the dual responsibility that doing so entails. First, unless you’ve been specifically asked to rewrite something in your own style or to change the emphasis of the message, remember that your job is to help the other writer succeed at his or her task, not to impose your writing style or pursue your own agenda. In other words, make sure your input focuses on making the piece more effective, not on making it more like something you would have written. Second, make sure you understand the writer’s intent before you begin suggesting or making changes. If you try to edit or revise without knowing what the writer hoped to accomplish, you run the risk of making the piece less effective, not more. With those thoughts in mind, answer the following questions as you evaluate someone else’s writing: • What is the purpose of this document or message? • Who is the target audience?

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• What information does the audience need? • Does the document provide this information in a well-organized way? • Does the writing demonstrate the “you” attitude toward the audience? • Is the tone of the writing appropriate for the audience? • Can the readability be improved? • Is the writing clear? If not, how can it be improved? • Is the writing as concise as it could be? • Does the design support the intended message? You can read more about using these skills in the context of wiki writing in Chapter 12.

Revising to Improve Readability After checking the content, organization, style, and tone of your message, make a second pass to improve readability. Most professionals are inundated with more reading material than they can ever hope to consume, and they’ll appreciate your efforts to make your documents easier to read. You’ll benefit from this effort, too: if you earn a reputation for well-crafted documents that respect the audience’s time, people will pay more attention to your work. You may be familiar with one of the many indexes that have been developed over the years in an attempt to measure readability. For example, the FleschKincaid Grade Level score computes reading difficulty relative to grade-level achievement. Thus, a score of 10 suggests that a document can be read and understood by the average grade 10 student. Most business documents score in the 8–11 range. Technical documents often score in the 12–14 range. A similar scoring system, the Flesch Reading Ease score, ranks documents on a 100-point scale: the higher the score, the easier the document is to read. Readability indexes offer a useful reference point, but they are all limited by what they are able to measure: word length, number of syllables, sentence length, and paragraph length. They can’t measure any other factors that affect readability, such as audience analysis, writing clarity, and document design. Compare these two paragraphs:

2

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain four writing techniques you can use to improve the readability of your messages.

Readability formulas can give you a helpful indication, but they can’t measure everything that affects readability.

Readability indexes offer a useful reference point, but they are all limited by what they are able to measure: word length, number of syllables, sentence length, and paragraph length. They can’t measure any of the other factors that affect readability, from “you” orientation to writing clarity to document design. Readability indexes can help. But they don’t measure everything. They don’t measure whether your writing clarity is good. They don’t measure whether your document design is good or not. Reading indexes are based on word length, syllables, sentences, and paragraphs.

The first paragraph scores 12.0 on grade level and 27.4 on reading ease, meaning it is supposedly rather difficult to read. The second paragraph scores much better on both grade level (8.9) and reading ease (45.8). However, the second example is choppy, unsophisticated, and poorly organized, and much less satisfying to read. As a general rule, then, don’t assume that a piece of text is readable if it scores well on a readability index—or that it is difficult to read if it doesn’t score well. Beyond shortening words and sentences for readability measurements, you can improve the readability of a message by making the document easy to skim. Most business audiences—particularly influential senior managers—skim longer documents looking for key ideas, conclusions, and recommendations. If they determine that the document contains valuable information or requires a

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The effort to make your documents more readable will pay for itself in greater career success.

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150 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

response, they will read it more carefully when time permits. You can adopt a number of techniques to make your message easier to skim: varying sentence length, using shorter paragraphs, using lists and bullets instead of narrative, and adding effective headings and subheadings.

VARYING YOUR SENTENCE LENGTH To keep readers’ interest, use both long and short sentences.

Variety is a creative way to make your messages interesting and readable. By choosing words and sentence structures with care, you can create a rhythm that emphasizes important points, enlivens your writing style, and makes your information appealing to your reader. For example, a short sentence that highlights a conclusion at the end of a substantial paragraph of evidence makes your key message stand out. Effective documents, therefore, usually use a mixture of sentences that are short (up to 15 words), medium (15–25 words), and long (more than 25 words). Make sure you write in full sentences, though. Sentence fragments are very jarring for readers. Each sentence length has its advantages. Short sentences can be processed quickly and are easier for non-native speakers and translators to interpret. Medium-length sentences are useful for showing the relationships among ideas. Long sentences are often the best way to convey complex ideas, list multiple related points, or summarize or preview information. Of course, each sentence length also has disadvantages. Too many short sentences in a row can make your writing choppy. Medium-length sentences lack the punch of short sentences and the informative power of longer sentences. Long sentences are usually harder to understand than short sentences because they are packed with information that must all be absorbed at once. Because readers can absorb only a few words per glance, longer sentences are also more difficult to skim. Thus, the longer your sentence, the greater the possibility that the reader who skims it will not read enough words to process its full meaning. By choosing the best sentence length for each communication need and remembering to mix sentence lengths for variety, you’ll get your message across while keeping your documents lively and interesting.

KEEPING YOUR PARAGRAPHS SHORT Short paragraphs are easier to read than long ones.

Large blocks of text can be visually daunting, so the optimum paragraph length is short to medium in most cases. Unless you break up your thoughts somehow, you’ll end up with a three-page paragraph that’s guaranteed to intimidate even the most dedicated reader. Short paragraphs (of 100 words or fewer; this paragraph has 90 words) are easier to read than long ones, and they make your writing look inviting. They also help audiences read more carefully. You can also emphasize an idea by isolating it in a short, forceful paragraph. However, don’t overuse short paragraphs. Be careful to use one-sentence paragraphs only occasionally and only for emphasis. Also, if you need to divide a subject into several pieces to keep paragraphs short, help your readers keep the ideas connected by guiding them with plenty of transitional elements.

USING LISTS AND BULLETS TO CLARIFY AND EMPHASIZE Lists are effective tools for highlighting and simplifying material.

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An effective alternative to using conventional sentences is to set off important ideas in a list—a series of words, names, or other items. Lists can show the sequence of your ideas, heighten their impact visually, and increase the likelihood that a reader will find the key points. In addition, lists provide readers with clues, simplify complex subjects, highlight the main point, break up the

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page visually, ease the skimming process for busy readers, and give the reader a breather. Consider the difference between the following two approaches to the same information: Narrative

List

Owning your own business has many advantages. One is the easy opportunity to pursue your own personal passion. Another advantage is the satisfaction of working for yourself. As a sole proprietor, you also have the advantage of privacy because you do not have to reveal your information or plans to anyone.

Owning your own business has three advantages: • opportunity to pursue personal passion • satisfaction of working for yourself • privacy of information

When creating a list, you can separate items with numbers, letters, or bullets (a general term for any kind of graphical element that precedes each item). Bullets are generally preferred over numbers, unless the list is in some logical sequence or ranking, or specific list items will be referred to later on. When creating bullets or lists, do not use a colon before them unless a full sentence leads to the list of items. The following three steps need to be performed in the order indicated, and the numbers make that clear: 1. Find out how many employees would like on-site daycare facilities. 2. Determine how much space the daycare centre would require. 3. Estimate the cost of converting a conference room for the on-site facility. Lists are easier to locate and read if the entire numbered or bulleted section is set off by a blank line before and after, as the preceding examples demonstrate. Furthermore, when using lists, make sure to introduce them clearly so that people know what they’re about to read. One way to introduce lists is to make them a part of the introductory sentence: The board of directors met to discuss the revised annual budget. To keep expenses in line with declining sales, the directors voted to • Cut everyone’s salary by 10 percent • Close the employee cafeteria • Reduce travel expenses

Another way to introduce a list is to precede it with a complete introductory sentence, followed by a colon: The decline in company profit is attributable to four factors: • Slower holiday sales • Higher employee wages • Increased transportation and fuel costs • Slower inventory turnover

Home > Paragraphs and Page Layout Go online to see the full set of Help, tutorials, and videos.

Change paper size

Go Online

Show All

Do any of the following: Change the paper size for all pages 1. On the Format menu, click Document. 2. Click Page Setup. 3. On the Paper Size pop-up menu, select a paper size. 4. Click OK. 5. On the Apply to pop-up menu, click Whole document, and then click OK. Change the paper size for a specific page

Regardless of the format you choose, the items in a list should be parallel; that is, they should all use the same grammatical pattern. For example, if one list item begins with a verb, all list items should begin with a verb. If one item is a noun phrase, all should be noun phrases.

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Change the paper size for a section Change the default paper size for new documents

This Microsoft Word help screen uses a numbered list to explain a formatting process. Why are numbers used instead of bullets? Would the instructions be as clear in narrative form?

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152 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS Nonparallel List Items

Parallel List Items

• improve our bottom line

• improve our bottom line

• identification of new foreign markets for our products

• identify new foreign markets for our products

• global market strategies

• develop our global market strategies

• issues regarding pricing and packaging size

• resolve pricing and packaging issues

Parallel forms are easier to read and skim. You can create parallelism by repeating the pattern in words, phrases, clauses, or entire sentences (see Table 6–1).

ADDING HEADINGS AND SUBHEADINGS Use headings and subheadings to show the organization of your material, draw the reader’s attention to key points, and show connections between ideas.

A heading is a brief title that tells readers about the content of the section that follows. Subheadings are subordinate to headings, indicating subsections within a major section. Headings and subheadings serve these important functions: • Organization. Headings show your reader at a glance how the document is organized. They act as labels to group related paragraphs together and effectively organize your material into short sections. • Attention. Informative, inviting, and in some cases intriguing headings grab the reader’s attention, make the text easier to read, and help the reader find the parts he or she needs to read—or skip. • Connection. Using headings and subheadings together helps readers see the relationship between main ideas and subordinate ones so that they can understand your message more easily. Moreover, headings and subheadings visually indicate shifts from one idea to the next.

Informative headings are generally more helpful than descriptive ones. Use the same grammatical form for each heading.

Headings fall into two categories. Descriptive headings, such as “Cost Considerations,” identify a topic but do little more. Informative headings, such as “A New Way to Cut Costs,” put your reader right into the context of your message. Informative headings guide readers to think in a certain way about the topic. They are also helpful in guiding your work as a writer, especially if written in terms of questions you plan to address in your document. Well-written informative headings are self-contained, which means that readers can read just the headings and subheadings and understand them without reading the rest of the document. For example, “Introduction” conveys little information,

Table 6–1

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Achieving Parallelism

Method

Example

Parallel words

The letter was approved by Nguyen, Gitlen, Merlin, and Carlucci.

Parallel phrases

We are gaining market share in supermarkets, in department stores, and in specialty stores.

Parallel clauses

I’d like to discuss the issue after Vicki gives her presentation but before Marvin shows his slides.

Parallel sentences

In 2014 we exported 30 percent of our production. In 2013 we exported 50 percent.

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whereas the heading “Staffing Shortages in Finance and Accounting Cost the Company $150 000 Last Year” provides a key piece of information and captures the reader’s attention. Whatever types of headings you choose, keep them brief, and use parallel construction as you would for an outline, list, or series of words.

Editing for Clarity and Conciseness After you’ve reviewed and revised your message for readability, your next step is to ensure that your message is as clear and as concise as possible.

3

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe the steps you can take to improve the clarity of your writing.

EDITING FOR CLARITY To ensure clarity, look closely at your paragraph organization, sentence structure, and word choices. Do your paragraphs have clear topic sentences? Are the transitions between ideas obvious? Then ask yourself whether your sentences are easy to decipher. Are your statements simple and direct? Perhaps a sentence is so complicated that readers can’t unravel it. Next, review your word choices. You might have chosen a word that is so vague that readers can interpret it in several ways. Perhaps pronouns or tenses switch midsentence so that readers lose track of who is talking or when an event took place.2 See Table 6–2 for examples of the following tips: • Break up overly long sentences. Don’t connect too many clauses with and or or. If you find yourself stuck in a long sentence, you’re probably making the sentence do more than it can reasonably do, such as expressing two dissimilar thoughts or peppering the reader with too many pieces of supporting evidence at once (did you notice how difficult this long sentence was to read?). You can often clarify your writing style by separating a string of items into individual sentences. • Rewrite hedging sentences. Sometimes you have to write may or seems to avoid stating a judgment as a fact. However, when you have too many such hedges, you risk coming across as unsure of what you’re saying. • Impose parallelism. When you have two or more similar ideas to express, make them parallel. Repeating the same grammatical construction shows that the ideas are related, of similar importance, and on the same level of generality. Parallelism is discussed earlier in this chapter in the section on lists and bullets. • Correct dangling modifiers. Sometimes a modifier is not just an adjective or an adverb but an entire phrase modifying a noun or a verb. Be careful not to leave this type of modifier dangling, with no connection to the subject of the sentence. The first unacceptable example under “Dangling Modifiers” in Table 6–2 implies that the red sports car has both an office and the legs to walk there. The second example shows one frequent cause of dangling modifiers: passive construction. • Reword long noun sequences. When multiple nouns are strung together as modifiers, the resulting sentence can be hard to read. You might be trying too hard to create the desired effect. See if a single well-chosen word will do the job. If the nouns are all necessary, consider moving one or more to a modifying phrase, as shown in Table 6–2. Although you may add a few more words, your audience won’t have to work as hard to understand the sentence.

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Clarity is essential to getting your message across accurately and efficiently.

Don’t be afraid to present your opinions without qualification. When you use the same grammatical pattern to express two or more ideas, you show that they are comparable thoughts.

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Table 6–2

Revising for Clarity

Issues to Review

Unacceptable

Preferable

The magazine will be published January 1, and I’d better meet the deadline if I want my article included.

The magazine will be published January 1. I’d better meet the deadline if I want my article included.

I believe that Mr. Johnson’s employment record seems to show that he may be capable of handling the position.

Mr. Johnson’s employment record shows that he is capable of handling the position.

Mr. Simms had been drenched with rain, bombarded with telephone calls, and his boss shouted at him.

Mr. Sims had been drenched with rain, bombarded with telephone calls, and shouted at by his boss.

Ms. Reynolds dictated the letter, and next she signed it and left the office.

Ms. Reynolds dictated the letter, signed it, and left the office.

To waste time and missing deadlines are bad habits.

Wasting time and missing deadlines are bad habits.

Walking to the office, a red sports car passed her.

A red sports car passed her while she was walking to the office.

After a three-week slump, we increased sales.

After a three-week slump, sales increased.

The window sash installation company will give us an estimate on Friday.

The company that installs window sashes will give us an estimate on Friday.

The manager undertook implementation of the rules.

The manager implemented the rules.

Verification of the shipments occurs weekly.

Shipments are verified weekly.

reach a conclusion about

conclude

make a discovery of

discover

give consideration to

consider

Separating subject and predicate

A 10% decline in market share, which resulted from quality problems and an aggressive sales campaign by Armitage, the market leader in the Maritimes, was the major problem in 2013.

The major problem in 2013 was a 10% loss of market share, which resulted from both quality problems and an aggressive sales campaign by Armitage, the market leader in the Maritimes.

Separating adjectives, adverbs, or prepositional phrases from the words they modify

Our antique desk lends an air of strength and substance with thick legs and large drawers.

With its thick legs and large drawers, our antique desk lends an air of strength and substance.

Awkward References

The Law Office and the Accounting Office distribute computer supplies for legal secretaries and beginning accountants, respectively.

The Law Office distributes computer supplies for legal secretaries; the Accounting Office distributes those for beginning accountants.

Too Much Enthusiasm

We are extremely pleased to offer you a position on our staff of exceptionally skilled and highly educated employees. The work offers extraordinary challenges and a very large salary.

We are pleased to offer you a position on our staff of skilled and well-educated employees. The work offers challenges and an attractive salary.

Overly Long Sentences Taking compound sentences too far Hedging Sentences Overqualifying sentences

Unparallel Sentences Using dissimilar construction for similar ideas

Dangling Modifiers Placing modifiers close to the wrong nouns and verbs Long Noun Sequences Stringing too many nouns together Camouflaged Verbs Changing verbs and nouns into adjectives Changing verbs into nouns

Sentence Structure

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• Replace camouflaged verbs. Watch for words that end in -ion, -tion, -ing, -ment, -ant, -ent, -ence, -ance, and -ency. These endings often change verbs into nouns and adjectives, requiring you to add a verb just to get your point across. To prune and enliven your messages, use verbs instead of noun phrases. • Clarify sentence structure. Keep the subject and predicate of a sentence as close together as possible. When the subject and predicate are far apart, readers may need to read the sentence twice to figure out who did what. Similarly, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases usually make the most sense when they’re placed as close as possible to the words they modify. • Clarify awkward references. In an effort to save words, business writers sometimes use expressions such as the above-mentioned, as mentioned above, the aforementioned, the former, the latter, and respectively. These words cause readers to jump from point to point, which hinders effective communication. You’ll often be more successful using specific references (such as “as described in the second paragraph on page 22”), even if that means adding a few more words. • Moderate your enthusiasm. An occasional adjective or adverb intensifies and emphasizes your meaning, but too many can degrade your writing and damage your credibility. When using an adjective or adverb to enhance your meaning, be accurate and concrete. The word incredible (which means “not to be believed”) is often used to describe a quality. The sentence “Your product is incredible” would be better phrased as “Your product’s ease-of-use will please consumers.”

Subject and predicate should be placed as close together as possible, as should modifiers and the words they modify.

Showing enthusiasm for ideas is fine, but be careful not to go so far that you sound unprofessional.

EDITING FOR CONCISENESS 4

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Discuss why it’s important to make your message more concise, and give four tips on how to do so.

• Delete unnecessary words and phrases. To test whether a word or phrase Make your documents tighter by removing is essential, write the sentence without it. If the meaning doesn’t change, unnecessary words. leave it out. For example, very can be a useful word to achieve emphasis, but more often it’s simply clutter. There’s no need to call someone “very methodical.” The person is either methodical or not. In addition, avoid the clutter of too many or poorly placed relative pronouns (who, that, which). Even articles can be excessive (mostly too many thes). However, well-placed relative pronouns and articles prevent confusion, so make sure you don’t obscure the meaning of the sentence by removing them. • Shorten long words and phrases. Short words are generally more vivid and easier to read than long ones. Shorter phrases are easier to process and understand quickly. Remember, though, the idea is to use short, simple words, not simple concepts.4 • Eliminate redundancies. In some word combinations, the words tend to say the same thing. For What parallels can you draw between post-game analysis and editing example, “visible to the eye” is redundant because business messages? What do coaches look for when reviewing a visible is enough without further clarification; “to the game that their team either won or lost? Can you adapt the process that coaches use to editing your own work? eye” adds nothing.

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Nick Daly/Stone/Getty Images

In addition to clarity, readers appreciate conciseness in business messages. The good news is that most first drafts can be cut by as much as 50 percent.3 By reorganizing your content, improving the readability of your document, and correcting your sentence structure for clarity, you will have already eliminated most of the excess. Now it is time to examine every word. As you begin editing, simplify, prune, and strive for order. See Table 6–3 for examples of the following tips:

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156 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

• Recast “It is/There are” starters. If you start a sentence with an indefinite pronoun such as it or there, you can probably rephrase the sentence to make it shorter. For example, “We believe …” is a stronger opening than “It is believed that …” Sometimes you’ll find that the most difficult problem in a sentence can be solved by simply removing the problem itself. When you come upon a troublesome element, ask yourself, “Do I need it at all?” Possibly not. In fact, you may find that it was giving you so much grief precisely because it was trying to do an unnecessary job.5 Once you remove the troublesome element, the afflicted sentence will read correctly and smoothly. Of course, before you delete anything, you’ll probably want to keep copies of your current version. Take advantage of the “undo” and “redo” functions in your software to experiment with adding and removing various elements.

Table 6–3

Revising for Conciseness

Issues to Review

Unacceptable

Preferable

for the sum of

for

in the event that

if

prior to the start of

before

in the near future

soon

at this point in time

now

due to the fact that

because

in view of the fact that

because

until such time as

when

with reference to

about

Cars that are sold after January will not have a six-month warranty.

Cars sold after January will not have a six-month warranty.

Employees who are driving to work should park in the underground garage.

Employees driving to work should park in the underground garage.

The project manager told the engineers last week the specifications were changed.

The project manager told the engineers last week that the specifications were changed.

Unnecessary Words and Phrases Using wordy phrases

Using too many relative pronouns

Using too few relative pronouns

The project manager told the engineers that last week the specifications were changed. Long Words and Phrases Using overly long words

Using wordy phrases rather than infinitives

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During the preceding year, the company accelerated productive operations.

Last year the company sped up operations.

The action was predicated on the assumption that the company was operating at a financial deficit.

The action was based on the belief that the company was losing money.

If you want success as a writer, you must work hard.

To be a successful writer, you must work hard.

He went to the library for the purpose of studying.

He went to the library to study.

The employer increased salaries so she could improve morale.

The employer increased salaries to improve morale.

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Table 6–3

Revising for Conciseness (continued)

Issues to Review

Unacceptable

Preferable

absolutely complete

complete

basic fundamentals

fundamentals

follows after

follows

free and clear

free

refer back

refer

repeat again

repeat

collect together

collect

future plans

plans

return back

return

important essentials

essentials

end result

result

actual truth

truth

final outcome

outcome

uniquely unusual

unique

surrounded on all sides

surrounded

modern, up-to-date equipment new or improved

modern equipment new or improved

It would be appreciated if you would sign the lease today.

Please sign the lease today.

There are five employees in this division who were late to work today.

Five employees in this division were late to work today.

Redundancies Repeating meanings

Using double modifiers “It Is/There Are” Starters Starting sentences with it or there

For a reminder of the tasks involved in revision, see “Checklist: Revising Business Messages.”

USING TECHNOLOGY TO REVISE YOUR MESSAGE When it’s time to revise and polish your message, your word processor can help you add, delete, and move text with functions such as cut and paste (taking a block of text out of one section of a document and pasting it in somewhere else) and find and replace (tracking down words or phrases and changing them if necessary). Be careful using the “Replace all” option; it can result in some unintended errors. For example, finding power and replacing all occurrences with strength will also change the word powerful to strengthful. To assist with revision, software tools such as revision marks and commenting keep track of proposed editing changes electronically and provide a history of a document’s revisions. Microsoft Word, the most commonly used wordprocessing software in business offices, offers handy tools for reviewing draft documents. As shown in Figure 6–4, text to be added is underlined, and text to be deleted is moved to bubbles off to the side. The writer can then choose to accept or reject each suggested change. Adobe Acrobat lets you attach comments to PDF files (see Figure 6–5). (Note that Adobe Acrobat is not the same product as the free Adobe Reader.) Using revision marks and commenting features is also a practical way to keep track of editing changes made by team members. Both Word and Acrobat let you use different colours for each reviewer, as well, so you can keep everyone’s comments separate.

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Revision marks and commenting features are great ways to track the revision process when multiple reviewers are involved.

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A writer who has received suggested changes from a reviewer can easily accept or reject each change.

Each addition or deletion is highlighted in turn so that the writer can consider whether to accept or reject it.

Reviewers can also leave comments, which don’t affect the text (the writer simply deletes the comments after reading them).

Various programs have different options for displaying suggested changes from reviewers; in this example, insertions are underlined in the text, and deletions are displayed in bubbles off to the side.

Figure 6–4  Revision Marks in Microsoft Word © Microsoft Word

✓Checklist

Revising Business Messages

A. Evaluate content, organization, style, and tone. • Ensure that the information is accurate, relevant, and sufficient. • Check that all necessary points appear in logical order. • Verify that you present enough support to make the main idea convincing and interesting. • Ensure the beginning and end are effective. • Ensure you’ve achieved the right style and tone. B. Review for readability. • Consider using a readability index, being sure to interpret the answer carefully. • Use a mix of short and long sentences. • Keep paragraphs short. • Use bulleted and numbered lists to emphasize key points. • Make the document easy to skim with headings and subheadings.

Spell-checkers, grammar-checkers, and computerized thesauruses can all help with the revision process, but they can’t take the place of good writing and editing skills.

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C. Edit for clarity. • Break up overly long sentences and rewrite hedging sentences. • Use parallelism to simplify reading. • Correct dangling modifiers. • Reword long noun sequences and replace camouflaged verbs. • Clarify sentence structure and awkward references. • Moderate your enthusiasm to maintain a professional tone. D. Edit for conciseness. • Delete unnecessary words and phrases. • Shorten long words and phrases. • Eliminate redundancies. • Rewrite sentences that start with “It is” or “There are.”

In addition to the many revision tools, four software functions can help bring out the best in your documents. First, a spell-checker compares your document with an electronic dictionary, highlights unrecognized words, and suggests correct spellings. Spell-checkers are wonderful for finding typos, but they are no substitute for good spelling skills. For example, if you use their when you mean

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Figure 6–5  PDF File with Comments Adobe product screenshot(s) reprinted with permission from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

to use there, your spell-checker won’t notice, because their is spelled correctly. If you’re in a hurry and accidentally omit the p at the end of top, the spell-checker will read to as correct. Plus, some “errors” that the spell-checker indicates may actually be proper names, technical words, words that you misspelled on purpose, web addresses, or simply words that weren’t included in the spell-checker’s dictionary. It’s up to you to decide whether each flagged word should be corrected or left alone, to find the errors that the spell-checker has overlooked, and to catch problems that the spell-checker itself might introduce (such as inserting unwanted hyphens or suggesting incorrect word replacements). You can set the default language to Canadian English in the most recent version of Microsoft Word through the Tools menu. Macintosh users can do the same through the International menu in System Preferences. Second, a computer thesaurus (either within your software or on a website such as http://thesaurus.com) offers alternatives to a particular word. The best uses of a thesaurus are to find fresh, interesting words when you’ve been using the same word too many times and to find words that most accurately convey your intended meaning. Don’t use a thesaurus simply to find impressive-sounding words, however, and don’t assume that all the alternatives suggested are correct for each situation. Third, a grammar-checker tries to do for your grammar what a spell-checker does for your spelling. Because the program doesn’t have a clue about what you’re

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160 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

trying to say, it can’t tell whether you’ve said it clearly or correctly. However, grammar-checkers can highlight items you should consider changing, such as passive voice, long sentences, and words that tend to be misused. Fourth, a style-checker can monitor your word and sentence choices and suggest alternatives that might produce more effective writing. For example, the style-checking options can range from basic issues, such as spelling out numbers and using contractions, to more subjective matters, such as sentence structure and the use of technical terminology. By all means, use any software that you find helpful when revising your documents. Just remember that it’s unwise to rely on them to do all your revision work and that you are responsible for the final product.

Producing Your Message 5

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain how design elements help determine the effectiveness of your documents. Production quality affects both readability and audience perceptions of you and your message. Document design sends strong nonverbal signals—make sure the signals you send are positive and appropriate.

Clear title and statement of purpose let visitors know instantly what the blog is all about. Uses fonts and colours consistently throughout. The sans serif typeface choice is acceptable for body text here, given the generous spacing between lines. Uses white space and clear, concise headings effectively to make the document easy to skim.

Now it’s time to put your hard work on display. The production quality of your message—the total effect of page or screen design, graphical elements, typography, paper, and so on—plays an important role in the effectiveness of your message. A polished, inviting design not only makes your document easier to read but also conveys a sense of professionalism and importance.6

DESIGNING FOR READABILITY Design affects readability in two important ways. First, if used carefully, design elements can improve the effectiveness of your message. If done poorly, design elements can act as barriers, blocking your communication. Second, the visual design itself sends a nonverbal message to the audience, influencing their perceptions of the communication before they read a single word. View any business website on the Internet and ask yourself what nonverbal message it sends and how you are influenced by it. Effective design helps you establish the tone of your document and helps guide your readers through your message. As the blog in Figure 6–6 shows, the clean and restrained design is more than adequate for its purpose, which is

The screen header is about as simple as one can get, but it is fine for this business purpose. A livelier look would certainly work nicely with blogs that address more consumer-oriented topics, for example. Bulleted list makes it easy for readers to pick up key points. Headings are clearly distinguished from other text by type size, weight, and colour (in these sidebars). The plain background helps readability by avoiding any visual conflict between text and background graphics. Ragged right margins are easy to read and require no special effort to format.

Figure 6–6  Designing for Readability. Used with the Permission of Bruce McGraw.

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to share ideas on project management strategies and techniques. To achieve an ­effective design, pay careful attention to the following design elements: • Consistency. Throughout each message, be consistent in your use of margins, typeface, type size, and spacing (paragraph indents, between columns, and around photographs). Also be consistent when using recurring design elements, such as vertical lines, columns, and borders. In many cases, you’ll want to be consistent not only within a message but also across multiple messages; that way, audiences who receive messages from you recognize your documents and know what to expect. • Balance. Balance is a subjective issue. One document may have a formal, rigid design in which the various elements are placed in a grid pattern, while another has a less formal design in which elements flow more freely across the page—and both could be in balance. Like the tone of your language, visual balance can be too formal, just right, or too informal for a given message. • Restraint. Strive for simplicity in design. Don’t clutter your message with too many design elements, too much highlighting, too many colours, or too many decorative touches. Let “simpler” and “fewer” be your guiding concepts. • Detail. Pay attention to details that affect your design and thus your message. For example, headings and subheadings that appear at the bottom of a column or a page can annoy readers when the promised information doesn’t appear until the next column or page. Also, narrow columns with too much space between words can be distracting.

For effective design, pay attention to • Consistency • Balance • Restraint • Detail

Even without special training, you can make your printed and electronic messages more effective by understanding the use of white space, margins and line justification, typefaces, and type styles. WHITE SPACE  Any space free of text or artwork, whether in print or online, is considered white space (note that “white space” isn’t necessarily white; it is simply blank). These unused areas provide visual contrast and important resting points for your readers. White space includes the open area surrounding headings, margins, vertical space between columns, paragraph indents or extra space between unindented paragraphs, and horizontal space between lines of text. To increase the chance that readers will read your documents, be generous with white space, which makes pages feel less intimidating and easier to read.7

White space separates elements in a document and helps guide the reader’s eye.

MARGINS AND JUSTIFICATION  Margins define the space around your text and between text columns. They’re influenced by the way you place lines of type, which can be set (1) justified (flush on the left and flush on the right), (2) flush left with a ragged right margin, (3) flush right with a ragged left margin, or (4) centred. This paragraph is justified, whereas the paragraphs in Figure 6–3 are flush left with a ragged-right margin. Magazines, newspapers, and books often use justified type because it can accommodate more text in a given space. However, justified type needs to be used with care. First, it creates a denser look because the uniform line lengths decrease the amount of white space along the right margin. Second, it produces a more formal and less personalized look. Third, unless it is used with some skill and attention, justified type can be more difficult to read because it can produce large gaps between words and excessive hyphenation at the ends of lines. The publishing specialists who create magazines, newspapers, and books have the time and skill needed to carefully adjust character and word spacing to eliminate these problems. (In some cases, sentences are even rewritten in order to improve the appearance of the printed page.) Because most business communicators don’t have that time or skill, it’s best to avoid justified type in most business documents.

Most business documents use a flush-left margin and a ragged-right margin.

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Flush-left, ragged-right type “lightens” your message’s appearance. It gives a document an informal, contemporary feeling of openness. Spacing between words is the same, and only long words that fall at the ends of lines are hyphenated. Centred type is rarely used for text paragraphs but is commonly used for headings and subheadings. Flush-right, ragged-left type is rarely used in business documents. TYPEFACES  Typeface, or font, refers to the physical design of letters, numbers, and other text characters. (Font and typeface are often used interchangeably, although strictly speaking, a font is a set of characters in a given typeface.) Typeface influences the tone of your message, making it look authoritative or friendly, businesslike or casual, classic or modern, and so on (see Table 6–4). Choose fonts that are appropriate for your message. Most computers offer dozens of font choices, but most of these are inappropriate for general business usage. Serif typefaces have small crosslines (called serifs) at the ends of each letter stroke. Serif faces such as Times New Roman are commonly used for regular paragraph text (as in this book), but they can look busy and cluttered when set in large sizes for headings or other display treatments. Typefaces with rounded serifs can look friendly; those with squared serifs can look official. Sans serif typefaces have no serifs (sans is French for “without”). The visual simplicity of sans serif typefaces such as Helvetica and Arial makes them ideal for the larger sizes used in headlines. Sans serif faces can be difficult to read in long blocks of text, however, unless they are formatted with generous amounts of leading (pronounced ledding), or spacing between lines. The classic style of document design uses a sans serif typeface for headings and a serif typeface for regular paragraph text. However, many contemporary documents and websites now use a sans serif face for both. Whichever combination you use, make sure that the result is reader friendly and that it conveys the right personality for the situation.

Avoid using any type style in ways that might interfere with reading.

TYPE STYLES  Type style refers to any modification that lends contrast or emphasis to type, including boldface, italic, underlining, and other highlighting and decorative styles. Using boldface type for subheads breaks up long expanses of text. You can also boldface isolated words in the middle of a text block to draw more attention to them. For example, the key terms in each chapter in this book are set in bold. Italic type also creates emphasis, although not as pronounced as boldface. Italic type has specific uses as well, such as highlighting quotations and indicating foreign words, irony, humour, book and movie titles, and unconventional usage. As a general rule, avoid using any style in a way that slows your audience’s progress through the message. For example, underlining or using all uppercase letters can interfere with your reader’s ability to recognize the shapes of words; improperly placed boldface or italicized type can slow down your reader; and shadowed or outlined type can seriously hinder legibility. Table 6–4

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Typeface Personalities: Serious to Casual to Playful

Serif Typefaces (best for text)

Sans Serif Typefaces (best for headlines; some work well for text)

Specialty Typefaces (for decorative purposes only)

Bookman Old Style

Arial

Anna

Century Schoolbook

Eras Bold

Bauhaus

Courier Garamond

Franklin Gothic Book

Edwardian

Frutiger

Lucida Handwriting

Rockwell

Gill Sans

Times New Roman

Verdana

STENCIL

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Type size is an important consideration as well. For most printed business messages, use a type size of 10 to 12 points for regular text and 12 to 18 points for headings and subheadings (a point is approximately 1/72 of an inch). Resist the temptation to reduce type size to squeeze in text or to enlarge it to fill up space. Type that is too small is hard to read, whereas extra-large type looks unprofessional. Be particularly careful with small type online. Small type that looks fine on a medium-resolution screen can be hard to read on both low-resolution screens (because these displays can make letters look jagged or fuzzy) and highresolution screens (because these monitors reduce the apparent size of the type even further). In Ontario, the government is phasing in new requirements for documents that help those with physical challenges to read and manipulate information. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilties Act (AODA) has specific guidelines for formatting, including font type and size. You should familiarize yourself with the requirements as soon as possible; visit the website at http://www.aoda.ca.

DESIGNING MULTIMEDIA DOCUMENTS A multimedia document contains a combination of text, graphics, photographs, audio, animation, video, and interactivity (such as hyperlinks that access webpages or software programs). As rich media, multimedia documents can convey large amounts of information quickly, engage people in multiple ways, express emotions, and allow recipients to personalize the communication process to their own needs. However, these documents are more difficult to create than documents that contain only text and static images. To design and create multimedia documents, you need to consider the following factors: • Creative and technical skills. Depending on what you need to accomplish, creating and integrating multimedia elements can require some creative and technical skills. Fortunately, many basic tasks, such as adding photographs or video clips to a webpage, have gotten much easier in recent years. And even if you don’t have the advantage of formal training in design, by studying successful examples you can start to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. • Tools. The hardware and software tools needed to create and integrate media elements are now widely available and generally affordable. For example, with simpler and less expensive consumer versions of professional photo and video editing software, you can often perform all the tasks you need for business multimedia (see Figure 6–7). • Time and cost. The time and cost of creating multimedia documents has dropped dramatically in recent years. However, you still need to consider these elements—and exercise good judgment when deciding whether to include multimedia and how much to include. Make sure the time and money you plan to spend will be paid back in communication effectiveness. • Content. To include various media elements in a document, you need to create them if you have the time, tools, and skills, or you need to acquire them if you don’t. Millions of graphics, photos, video clips, and other elements are available online, but you need to make sure you can legally use each item. One good option is to search Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org) for multimedia elements available for use at no charge but with various restrictions (such as giving the creator credit). • Message structure. Multimedia documents often lack a rigid linear structure from beginning to end, which means you need to plan for readers to take multiple, individualized paths through the material. Chapter 11 discusses the challenge of information architecture, the structure and navigational flow of websites and other multimedia documents.

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Multimedia documents can be powerful communication vehicles, but they require more time, tools, and skills to create.

Make sure you have the legal right to use any media elements that you include in your documents.

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Figure 6–7  Multimedia Tools Source: Photo by Ryan Lackey. Adobe product screenshot(s) reprinted with permission from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

• Compatibility. Some multimedia elements require specific software to be installed on the recipient’s viewing device. Another challenge is the variety of screen sizes and resolutions, from large, high-resolution computer monitors to tiny mobile phone displays. Make sure you understand the demands your message will place on the audience.

USING TECHNOLOGY TO PRODUCE YOUR MESSAGE

Learning to use the basic features of your communication tools will help you produce better messages in less time.

Production tools vary widely, depending on the software and systems you’re using. Some IM and email systems offer limited formatting and production capabilities, whereas most word processors now offer some capabilities that rival professional publishing software for many day-to-day business needs. Desktop publishing software such as Adobe InDesign goes beyond word processing, with more advanced layout capabilities designed to accommodate photos, technical drawings, and other elements. (Such programs are used mainly by design professionals.) For online content, web publishing and blogging systems make it easy to produce great-looking pages quickly. No matter what system you’re using, become familiar with the basic formatting capabilities. A few hours of exploration on your own or an introductory training course can dramatically improve the production quality of your documents. Depending on the types of messages you’re creating, you’ll benefit from being proficient with the following features: • Templates, themes, style sheets, and style sets. As Chapter 5 notes, you can save a significant amount of time during production by using templates, themes, style sheets, and style sets. Many companies provide these to their employees to ensure a consistent look and feel for all print and online company documents.

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• Page setup. Use page setup to control margins, orientation (portrait is vertical; landscape is horizontal), and the location of headers and footers (text and graphics that repeat at the top and bottom of every page). • Column formatting. Most business documents use a single column of text per page, but multiple columns can be an attractive format for documents such as newsletters. Columns are also handy to format long lists. • Paragraph formatting. Take advantage of the various paragraph-formatting controls to enhance the look of your documents. You can offset quotations by increasing margin width around a single paragraph, subtly compress line spacing to fit a document on a single page, or use hanging indents to offset the first line of a paragraph. • Numbered and bulleted lists. Let your word processor do the busywork of formatting numbered and bulleted lists. It can also automatically renumber lists when you add or remove items. TIPS FOR SUCCESS

“The way you present your information will increase the clarity of your message. Using bold subheadings and indents helps to highlight your points.”

Gina Cuciniello, communication trainer

• Tables. Tables are an effective way to display any information that lends itself to rows and columns: calendars, numerical data, comparisons, and so on. Use paragraph and font formatting thoughtfully within tables. • Pictures, text boxes, and objects. Print and online publishing software lets you insert a wide variety of elements. Text boxes are small blocks of text that stand apart from the main text and can be placed anywhere on the page; they are great for captions, callouts, margin notes, and so on. Objects can be anything from a spreadsheet to a sound clip to an engineering drawing.

FORMATTING FORMAL LETTERS AND MEMOS Formal business letters usually follow certain design conventions, as the letter in Figure 6–3 illustrates. Most business letters are printed on letterhead stationery, which includes the company’s name, address, and other contact information. The first thing to appear after the letterhead is the date (spell out the month instead of using numbers, as many cultures use the day/month/year numbers differently), followed by the inside address, which identifies the person receiving the letter. Next is the salutation, usually in the form of Dear Mr. or Ms. Last Name. The message comes next, followed by the complimentary close, usually Sincerely or Cordially. And last comes the signature block: space for the signature, followed by the sender’s printed name and title. For in-depth information on letter formats, see Appendix A, “Format and Layout of Business Documents.” Like letters, business memos usually follow a preset design, as shown in Figure 6–8, which shows the typical elements. Memos have largely been replaced by electronic media in many companies, but if they are still in use at the firm you join, the company may have a standard format or template for you to use. Most memos begin with a title such as Memo, Memorandum, or Interoffice Correspondence. Following that are usually four headings: Date, To, From, and Subject. (Re:, short for Regarding, is sometimes used instead of Subject.) Memos usually don’t use a salutation, complimentary close, or signature, although signing your initials next to your name on the From line is standard practice in most companies. Bear in mind that memos are often distributed without sealed envelopes, so they are less private than most other message formats.

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Business letters typically have the following elements: • Preprinted letterhead stationery • Date • Inside address • Salutation • Complimentary close • Signature block

Memos are usually identified by a title such as Memo or Memorandum.

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Standard company memo stationery includes a title indicating that this is a memo.

INTERNAL MEMORANDUM

These four headings are commonly used in memos.

DATE: TO: FROM: SUBJECT:

Memos typically do not include an opening salutation.

Following are some bullet points highlighting upcoming itinerary deployments and other news involving the Carnival fleet for the coming year. Please note that this information will be posted on our web site, provided to journalists on an as-needed basis and included in all press kits:

March 15, 2019 Carnival’s PR Department Vance Gulliksen, PR Manager News to Use for 2014

New Carnival Magic Set to Debut May 1, 2014 – Carnival’s newest “Fun Ship,” the 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic is set to debut May 1, 2014, with a series of seven- to 12-day Mediterranean cruises then launch seven-day Caribbean service from Galveston Nov. 14, 2014, becoming the largest ship based at the port year-round. Carnival Magic will offer a host of exciting innovations, including the Caribbean-themed RedFrog Pub featuring its own private label beer, Cucina del Capitano, an Italian restaurant that brings the heritage of Carnival’s captains to the table, and SportsSquare, an outdoor recreation area featuring the first-ever ropes course and outdoor fitness area on a cruise ship. Dramatic Expansion of Bermuda Cruises in 2014 – Carnival will dramatically expand its Bermuda cruise schedule in 2014, offering 16 departures to the island from four popular eastern U.S. homeports -- Baltimore, Norfolk, Va.; New York and, for the first time, Charleston, S.C. The 16 Bermuda voyages -- the most the line has ever offered -- will encompass a variety of six-, seven- and eight-day cruises from April through November 2014. Carnival to Base Third Ship in Port Canaveral – Carnival Ecstasy will reposition to Port Canaveral, Fla., for a one-of-a-kind schedule of four- and five-day Bahamas cruises beginning November 7, 2014. The move further bolsters Carnival’s position as Port Canaveral’s largest cruise operator with three year-round ships carrying approximately 600,000 guests annually. On Carnival Ecstasy’s new schedule, the ship will depart Thursdays on four-day cruises visiting Nassau and Half Moon Cay or Freeport, while five-day cruises will depart Mondays and Saturdays and call at Nassau, Freeport and Half Moon Cay or Key West. New Punchliner Comedy Clubs, SuperStar Live Karoake – Carnival has introduced two exciting new shipboard activities – Punchliner Comedy Clubs and SuperStar Live Karaoke. Building on the success of its first comedy club on Carnival Dream, Punchliner Comedy Clubs will offer five 35-minute shows on multiple nights each voyage, with both family-friendly and adult-oriented performances. SuperStar Live Karaoke allows guests to channel their inner rock star, performing with a live four-piece band and even their own back-up singers. Guests can select from more than 100 classic and contemporary hits spanning a variety of musical genres.

Memos typically do not include a complimentary close or a signature block.

Serenity Adults-Only Retreats Now on 13 Carnival Ships – Serenity, the popular adults-only retreats that debuted on the line’s eight Fantasy-class vessels, are now featured on 13 Carnival ships. Designed as an oceangoing oasis for relaxation, Serenity offers colorful umbrellas, comfortable chaise lounges and chairs, oversized whirlpools, and of course, gorgeous sea views. Please let me know if you have any further questions or require additional information. Thanks.

Figure 6–8  A Typical Business Memo Courtesy: Carnival Corporation

Proofreading Your Message 6

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Highlight the types of errors to look for when proofreading. Your credibility is affected by your attention to the details of mechanics and form.

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Proofreading is the quality inspection stage for your documents, as your last chance to ensure that your document is ready to carry your message—and your reputation—to the intended audience. Even a small mistake can doom your efforts, so take proofreading seriously. Look for two types of problems: (1) undetected mistakes from the writing, design, and layout stages and (2) mistakes that crept in during production. For the first category, you can review format and layout guidelines in Appendix A. The second category can include anything from computer glitches, such as missing fonts, to problems with the ink used in printing. Be particularly vigilant with complex documents and complex production processes that involve teams of people and multiple computers. Strange things can happen as files move from computer to computer, especially when a lot of graphics and different fonts are

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✓Checklist

Proofing Business Messages

A. Look for writing errors. • Typographical mistakes • Misspelled words • Grammatical errors • Punctuation mistakes B. Look for missing elements. • Missing text sections • Missing exhibits (drawings, tables, photographs, charts, graphs, online images, and so on) • Missing source notes, copyright notices, or other reference items

• • • • • • •

Margins Special characters Clumsy line and page breaks Page numbers Page headers and footers Adherence to company standards Links (make sure they’re active and link to the correct pages) • Downloadable files (make sure they’re stored in the appropriate folder so audiences can access them)

C. Look for design and formatting mistakes. • Incorrect or inconsistent font selections • Column sizing, spacing, and alignment

involved. See “Checklist: Proofing Business Messages” for a list of items to review during proofing. Resist the temptation to treat proofreading as a casual scan up and down the page or screen. Instead, approach it as a methodical procedure in which you look for specific problems that may occur. Start by reviewing the advice in “Sharpening Your Career Skills: Proofread Like a Pro to Create Perfect Documents.” You might also find it helpful to create a checklist of items to review; this can be a handy tool when you need to review one of your own documents or you’re asked to review someone else’s work. To ensure that your message is error-free, print a copy of it and read it from the last sentence to the first. This helps trick your brain into thinking it is seeing something new and breaks the logic pattern. We see so many errors every day that we tend to ignore them, but reading a document from the bottom to the top forces the brain to pay close attention to each sentence. The amount of time you need to spend on proofing depends on both the length and complexity of the document and the situation. A typo in a memo to your team might be forgiven, but a typo in a financial report, a contract, or a medical file certainly could be serious. As with every task in the writing process, practice helps—you become not only more familiar with what errors to look for but also more skilled in identifying those errors.

A methodical approach to proofreading will help you find the problems that need to be fixed.

Distributing Your Message With the production finished, you’re ready to distribute the message. You often have several options for distribution; consider the following factors when making your choice: • Cost. Cost isn’t a major concern for most messages, but for lengthy reports or multimedia production, it may well be. Printing, binding, and delivering reports can be an expensive proposition, so weigh the cost versus the benefits before you decide. Be sure to consider the nonverbal message you send regarding cost as well. Overnight delivery of a printed report could look responsive in one situation but wasteful in another, for example. • Convenience. How much work is involved for you and your audience? For instance, if you use a file-compression utility to shrink the size of email

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7

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Discuss the most important issues to consider when distributing your messages.

Make sure your delivery method is convenient for your audience members.

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SHARPENING YOUR CAREER SKILLS

Proofread Like a Pro to Create Perfect Documents

Before you click on “Send” or tote that stack of reports off to the shipping department, make sure your document represents the best possible work you can do. Your colleagues will usually overlook errors in everyday emails, but higher-profile mistakes in messages to outside audiences can damage your company and hinder your career. Use these techniques from professional proofreaders to help ensure high-quality output: • Make multiple passes. Go through the document several times, focusing on a different aspect each time. The first pass might be to look for omissions and errors in content; the second pass might be to check for typographical, grammatical, and spelling errors; and a final pass could be for layout, spacing, alignment, colours, page numbers, margins, and other design features. • Use perceptual tricks. It’s common to disregard transposed letters, improper capitalization, and misplaced punctuation when rereading your own material. Change the way you process the visual information by 1. Reading each page from the bottom to the top (starting at the last word in each line) 2. Placing your finger under each word and reading it silently 3. Making a slit in a sheet of paper that reveals only one line of type at a time 4. Reading the document aloud and pronouncing each word carefully 5. Temporarily reformatting the document so that it looks fresh to your eyes

• Double-check high-priority items. Double-check the spelling of names and the accuracy of dates, addresses, and any number that could cause grief if incorrect (such as telling a potential employer that you’d be happy to work for $5000 a year when you meant to say $50 000). • Give yourself some distance. If you have time, set the document aside and proofread it the next day. You will be able to catch your errors with a fresh review. • Be vigilant. Avoid reading large amounts of material in one sitting and don’t proofread when you’re tired. • Stay focused. Concentrate on what you’re doing. Block out distractions and focus as completely as possible on your proofreading task. • Review complex electronic documents on paper. Some people have trouble proofreading webpages, online reports, and other electronic documents onscreen. If you have trouble, try to print the materials so you can review them on paper. • Take your time. Quick proofreading is not careful proofreading. CAREER APPLICATIONS 1. Why is it valuable to have other people proofread your documents? 2. Proofread the following sentence: aplication of thse methods in stores in Vancouver nd Winnipeg have resultted in a 30 drop in roberies an a 50 percent decling in violnce there, acording ot the develpers if the securty sytem, Hanover brothrs, Inc.

attachments, make sure your recipients have the means to expand the files on arrival. For extremely large files, consider recordable media such as DVDs or a file-hosting site such as MediaFire (www.mediafire.com). • Time. How soon does the message need to reach the audience? Don’t waste money on overnight delivery if the recipient won’t read the report for a week. Remember not to mark any messages, printed or electronic, as “urgent” if they aren’t truly urgent. • Security and privacy. The convenience offered by electronic communication needs to be weighed against security and privacy concerns. For the most sensitive messages, your company will probably restrict both the people who can receive the documents and the means you can use to distribute them. In addition, most computer users are wary of opening attachments these days, particularly word processor files. Instead of sending Word files, which might be vulnerable to macro viruses and other risks, convert your Word documents to PDF files that can be viewed using Adobe Reader. Chapter 7 offers more advice on distributing podcasts, blogs, and other messages in electronic formats.

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SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1 Discuss the value of careful revision, and list the main tasks involved in completing a business message. Careful revision will produce a correctly written and professional document that will impress your readers and help them in their own tasks. Revision consists of (1) evaluating content, organization, style, and tone; (2) reviewing readability; (3) editing for clarity and conciseness; and (4) proofreading the final version after it has been produced.

2 Explain four writing techniques you can use to improve the readability of your messages. You can help your reader easily comprehend your messages by (1) varying sentence length, which will make your message compelling by adding variety and highlighting specific ideas; (2) keeping paragraphs short to medium length to create an inviting document; (3) using bullets and lists, which will clarify information through highlighting it and create a visually appealing document for complex subjects; and (4) using headings and subheadings to guide the reader through your message and attract attention.

3 Describe the steps you can take to improve the clarity of your writing. Clear writing comes with careful and methodical revision. As you clarify your message, you should divide overly long sentences to tighten your writing and rewrite hedging sentences to sound confident. Use parallelism to highlight related ideas and correct dangling modifiers so that your meaning is accurate. Reword long noun sequences and replace camouflaged verbs to be concise. Clarify sentence structure and awkward references to enhance readability and avoid confusion. Moderate your enthusiasm to maintain your credibility.

4 Discuss why it’s important to make your message more concise, and give four tips on how to do so. Businesspeople are more likely to read documents that give information efficiently. To make business messages more concise, include only necessary material and write clean sentences by (1) deleting unnecessary words and phrases, (2) shortening overly long words and phrases,

ON THE JOB

5 Explain how design elements help determine the effectiveness of your documents. When selecting and applying design elements, ensure their effectiveness by being consistent throughout your document; balancing space between text, art, and white space; showing restraint in the number of elements you use; and paying attention to every detail. White space provides contrast and gives readers a resting point. Margins and justification define the space around the text and contribute to the amount of white space. Typefaces, or fonts, influence the tone of the message. Type styles provide contrast or emphasis.

6 Highlight the types of errors to look for when proofreading. When proofreading the final version of your document, always look for errors in grammar, usage, and punctuation and watch for spelling mistakes and typos. Ensure that nothing is missing, such as a source note, figure, text, or exhibit. Check for design errors, such as elements that appear in the wrong font, misaligned elements (for example, columns in a table or figures on a page), and formatting mistakes (including uneven spacing between lines and words and incorrect line breaks). Finally, ensure that your layout conforms to company guidelines.

7 Discuss the most important issues to consider when distributing your messages. Keep in mind cost, convenience, time, security, and privacy when distributing your message. Balance cost versus benefits when selecting your distribution method for long documents, because printing, binding, and delivering long reports can be expensive. Furthermore, ensure that your reader needs your document immediately to justify an expensive delivery method (for example, overnight express). Finally, use secure transmission methods for sensitive documents, follow company guidelines for recipients, and use Adobe PDF instead of Word files to avoid viruses.

PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT FREE THE CHILDREN

The WE website is a key communication medium for promoting the organization’s programs to improve the lives of children around the world. As a recently hired volunteer in the Toronto office, you think that WE should introduce audio podcasts to its site so visitors can download information and listen to it whenever they wish. You are now editing a draft of your report and need to resolve these communication situations: 1. Podcasts are an established communication medium. You believe that if WE posted podcasts created by volunteers who describe their experiences, more young people

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(3) eliminating redundancies, and (4) recasting It is and There are starters.

would be attracted to volunteering at the organization. Which of the following sentences is the best way to suggest this opportunity? a. In just a few short years, podcasts have developed into an extremely popular communication medium, allowing anyone to create web content for downloading on computers and MP3 players. b. Podcasting can be audio and video, and people can find podcasts by visiting a specific organization or company or a site such as http://podcastalley.com.

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c. Podcasting has grown as a way for nonprofit organizations to generate interest in their activities. d. We’re going to be extremely sorry if we don’t get into podcasting. 2. Like all staff at WE, the communications director is extremely busy, with limited time to devote to reading reports and other business documents. You’ve learned that headings and subheadings are an effective way to get your points across, even if your reader does nothing more than skim through one of your reports. Which is the most effective subheading to head the section about the benefits of podcasting? a. The Importance of Podcasting as a Communication Tool b. The Podcasting Appeal: Attracting Volunteers through Education and Fun c. Podcasting Appeals to Many Young Internet Surfers d. The Great Opportunity in Podcasting on the WE Website

3. You want the communications coordinator to get a real feel for podcasting, so you decide to enhance the electronic version of your report with multimedia. Which is the best way to go beyond your text to show the reader the potential of podcasting? a. Add a sound clip with you talking about WE so that the reader understands the immediacy of a podcast. b. Include a link to the Center for Creative Leadership on iTunes U to help the reader understand how podcasts can transmit a wide variety of content about WE. c. Include a link to the podcast section in Wikipedia to give the reader a good understanding of how podcasts work. d. Include a PowerPoint presentation that you’ve created about podcasting.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. Why should you take care to revise messages before sending them?

7. What are some ways you can make a document more concise?

2. What are the pros and cons of readability indexes?

8. What are the benefits and shortcomings of using technology to revise your messages?

3. How can you improve the readability of your messages? 4. How do readers benefit from white space and headings? 5. What is parallel construction? Why is it important? 6. When should you use numbered lists? Bulleted lists?

9. When should you use email to distribute your messages? 10. Why are typeface and type styles important considerations when producing your messages?

APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. Why is it helpful to let a first draft “age” for a while before you begin the editing process?

to top executives at six locations in North America, Asia, and Europe? Explain your choice.

2. Given the choice of only one, would you prefer to use a grammar-checker or a spell-checker? Why?

5. Ethical Choices What are the ethical implications of murky, complex writing in a document explaining how customers can appeal the result of a decision made in the company’s favour during a dispute?

3. When you design a formal business letter, which design elements do you have to consider? Which are optional? 4. Which distribution method would you choose for a highly confidential strategic planning report that needs to be sent

RUNNING CASES > CASE 1 Noreen Petro-Go has just merged with Best Gas and has consequently nearly doubled in size. Many staff positions have changed and will continue to change. New staff positions will become available, and others will be reassigned. Noreen has applied for and received a promotion and is now the manager of the “Go

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Points” team. Until a manager is assigned to the “Collections” team, Noreen has been asked to take on the acting manager role until further notice. Noreen is asked to create a memo that will be sent to all employees of both companies informing them of the merger.

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There will be changes in procedures and job assignments once upper-level management determines the most effective way to handle business in this larger form. In the meantime, there is a temporary management hierarchy in place for reporting purposes.

c. If the memo is not proofread carefully and there are errors in it, could it affect the company image? How? d. What is the best way to distribute the memo? e. What design elements will need to be considered?

QUESTIONS a. What decisions will have to be made? b. What information will have to be gathered before Noreen begins?

YOUR TASK Create the memo to all employees. Apply the skills you have learned in Chapters 4, 5, and 6.

> CASE 2 Kwong Kwong’s manager at Accountants For All accounting firm was very impressed with the promotional letter Kwong sent to all past customers. He has asked Kwong to revise the letter for a promotional flyer that will reach new customers. The plan is to deliver the flyer to local businesses as well as several hundred homes in the area. Kwong’s manager hopes to increase new business by building credibility, emphasizing competitive prices, and mentioning promotions for repeat customers, seniors, students, and families of four or more.

b. What company contact information should Kwong include? c. What type of company image is Kwong trying to portray? d. How should Kwong have the flyer distributed? e. What should Kwong look for when proofreading the flyer? Should Kwong request that another colleague also proofread the flyer? YOUR TASK Create the flyer from Accountants For All. Apply the skills you have learned in Chapters 4, 5, and 6.

QUESTIONS a. What must Kwong consider with regard to the layout or format of the flyer, graphics, typefaces, sentence length, and language?

PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE Read the following documents, and then (1) analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each sentence and (2) revise each document so that it follows the guidelines in Chapters 4, 5, and 6.

DOCUMENT 6.A The move to our new offices will takes place over this coming weekend. For everything to run smooth, everyone will have to clean out thier own desk and pack up the contents in boxes that will be provided. You will need to take everything off of the walls to, and please pack it along with the boxes. If you have a lot of personal belongings, you should bring it home with you. Likewise with anything valuable. I do not mean to infer that items will be stolen, irregardless it is better to be safe than sorry. On Monday, we will be unpacking, putting things away, and than get back to work. The least amount of disruption is anticipated by us, if everyone does their part. Hopefully, there will be no negative affects on production schedules, and current deadlines will be met.

DOCUMENT 6.B

kernels at one time. Never add more than ½ cup. A half cup of corn will produce three to four quarts of popcorn. More batchs may be made separately after completion of the first batch. Popcorn is popped by hot air. Oil or shortening are not needed for popping corn. Add only popcorn kernels to the poping chamber. Standard grades of popcorn are recommended for use. Premium- or gourmet-type popping corns may be used. Ingredients such as oil, shortening, butter, margarine, or salt should never be added to the popping chamber. The popper, with popping chute in position, may be preheted for two minutes before adding the corn. Turn the popper off before adding the corn. Use electricity safely and wisely. Observe safty precautions when using the popper. Do not touch the popper when it is hot. The popper should not be left unattended when it is plugged into an outlet. Do not use the popper if it or it’s cord has been damaged. Do not use the popper if it is not working properly. Before using the first time, wash the chute and butter/measuring cup in hot soapy water. Use a dishcloth or sponge. Wipe the outside of the popper base. Use a damp cloth. Dry the base. Do not immerse the popper base in water or other liquid. Replace the chute and butter/measuring cup. The popper is ready to use.

For delicious, air-popped popcorn, please read the following instructions: The popper is designed to pop ½ cup of popcorn

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EXERCISES 6.1 Message Readability: Writing Paragraphs Rewrite the following paragraph to vary sentence length and to shorten the paragraph so it looks more inviting to readers. Although major league hockey remains popular, more people are attending women’s league hockey games because they can spend less on admission, snacks, and parking and still enjoy the excitement of Canada’s pastime. British Columbia has the Vancouver Griffins, the Richmond Steelers, and the North Island Eagles; Quebec has Laval Mistral and Montreal Wingstar; southern Ontario has the Toronto Sting, the Beatrice Aeros, and the Brampton Thunder. These teams play in relatively small arenas, so fans are close enough to see and hear everything, from the smack of the stick hitting the puck to the crash of a body check. Best of all, the cost of a family outing to see rising stars play in a local women’s league game is just a fraction of what the family would spend to attend a major league game in a much larger, more crowded arena.

6.2 Message Readability: Using Bullets Rewrite the following paragraph using a bulleted list: Our forensic accounting services provide the insights needed to resolve disputes, recover losses, and manage risk intelligently. One of our areas of practice is insurance claims accounting and preparation services, designed to help you maximize recovery of insured value. Another practice area is dispute advisory, in which we can assist with discovery, expert witness testimony, and economic analysis. A third practice: construction consulting. This service helps our clients understand why large-scale construction projects fail to meet schedule or budget requirements. Fourth, we offer general investigative and forensic accounting services, including fraud detection and proof of loss analysis.8

6.3 Revising Messages: Clarity Divide these sentences into shorter ones by adding more periods: a. The next time you write something, check your average sentence length in a 100-word passage, and if your sentences average more than 16 to 20 words, see whether you can break up some of the sentences. b. Don’t do what the village blacksmith did when he instructed his apprentice as follows: “When I take the shoe out of the fire, I’ll lay it on the anvil, and when I nod my head, you hit it with the hammer.” The apprentice did just as he was told, and now he’s the village blacksmith. c. Unfortunately, no gadget will produce excellent writing, but using a readability index gives us some guideposts to follow for making writing easier to read because it reminds us to use short sentences and simple words. d. Know the flexibility of the written word and its power to convey an idea, and know how to make your words behave so that your readers will understand.

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e. Words mean different things to different people, and a word such as block may mean city block, butcher block, engine block, auction block, or several other things.

6.4 Revising Messages: Conciseness Cross out unnecessary words in the following phrases: a. consensus of opinion b. new innovations c. long period of time d. at a price of $50 e. still remains

6.5 Revising Messages: Conciseness Revise the following sentences, using shorter, simpler words: a. The antiquated calculator is ineffectual for solving sophisticated problems. b. It is imperative that the pay increments be terminated before an inordinate deficit is accumulated. c. There was unanimity among the executives that Ms. Hassan’s idiosyncrasies were cause for a mandatory meeting with the company’s personnel director. d. The impending liquidation of the company’s assets was cause for jubilation among the company’s competitors. e. The expectations of the president for a stock dividend were accentuated by the preponderance of evidence that the company was in good financial condition.

6.6 Revising Messages: Conciseness Use infinitives as substitutes for the overly long phrases in these sentences: a. For living, I require money. b. They did not find sufficient evidence for believing in the future. c. Bringing about the destruction of a dream is tragic.

6.7 Revising Messages: Conciseness Rephrase the following in fewer words: a. in the near future b. in the event that c. in order that d. for the purpose of e. with regard to f. it may be that g. in very few cases h. with reference to i. at the present time j. there is no doubt that

6.8 Revising Messages: Conciseness Condense these sentences to as few words as possible: a. We are of the conviction that writing is important. b. In all probability, we’re likely to have a price increase. c. Our goals include making a determination about that in the near future.

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d. When all is said and done at the conclusion of this experiment, I’d like to summarize the final windup. e. After a trial period of three weeks, during which time she worked for a total of 15 full working days, we found her work was sufficiently satisfactory, so we offered her fulltime work.

6.9 Revising Messages: Modifiers Remove all the unnecessary modifiers from these sentences: a. Tremendously high pay increases were given to the extraordinarily skilled and extremely conscientious employees. b. The union’s proposals were highly inflationary, extremely demanding, and exceptionally bold.

6.10 Revising Messages: Hedging Rewrite these sentences so that they no longer contain any hedging: a. It would appear that someone apparently entered illegally. b. It may be possible that sometime in the near future the situation is likely to improve. c. Your report seems to suggest that we might be losing money.

6.11 Revising Messages: Indefinite Starters Rewrite these sentences to eliminate the indefinite starters: a. There are several examples here to show that Elaine can’t hold a position very long. b. It would be greatly appreciated if every employee would make a generous contribution to Mildred Cook’s retirement party. c. It has been learned in Ottawa today from generally reliable sources that an important announcement will be made shortly by the Prime Minister’s Office. d. There is a rule that states that we cannot work overtime without permission. e. It would be great if you could work late for the next three Saturdays.

6.12 Revising Messages: Parallelism Present the ideas in these sentences in parallel form: a. Mr. Luzon is expected to lecture three days a week, to counsel two days a week, and must write for publication in his spare time. b. She knows not only accounting, but she also reads Latin. c. Both applicants had families, university degrees, and were in their thirties, with considerable accounting experience but few social connections. d. This book was exciting, well written, and held my interest. e. Don is both a hard worker and he knows bookkeeping.

6.13 Revising Messages: Awkward References Revise the following sentences to delete the awkward references: a. The vice president in charge of sales and the production manager are responsible for the keys to 34A and 35A, respectively. b. The keys to 34A and 35A are in executive hands, with the former belonging to the vice president in charge of sales and the latter belonging to the production manager.

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c. The keys to 34A and 35A have been given to the production manager, with the aforementioned keys being gold embossed. d. A laser printer and an inkjet printer were delivered to John and Megan, respectively. e. The walnut desk is more expensive than the oak desk, the former costing $300 more than the latter.

6.14 Revising Messages: Dangling Modifiers Rewrite these sentences to clarify the dangling modifiers: a. Running down the railroad tracks in a cloud of smoke, we watched the countryside glide by. b. Lying on the shelf, Ruby saw the seashell. c. Based on the information, I think we should buy the property. d. Being cluttered and filthy, Sandy took the whole afternoon to clean up her desk. e. After proofreading every word, the memo was ready to be signed.

6.15 Revising Messages: Noun Sequences Rewrite the following sentences to eliminate the long strings of nouns: a. The focus of the meeting was a discussion of the mortgage rate issue. b. Following the government report recommendations, we are revising our job applicant evaluation procedures. c. The production department quality assurance program components include employee training, supplier cooperation, and computerized detection equipment. d. The supermarket warehouse inventory reduction plan will be implemented next month. e. The MacDonald McKenzie University business school graduate placement program is one of the best in the country.

6.16 Revising Messages: Sentence Structure Rearrange the following sentences to bring the subjects closer to their verbs: a. Trudy, when she first saw the bull pawing the ground, ran. b. It was Terri who, according to Ted, who is probably the worst gossip in the office (Tom excepted), mailed the wrong order. c. William Oberstreet, in his book Investment Capital Reconsidered, writes of the mistakes that bankers through the decades have made. d. Anya Federov, after passing up several sensible investment opportunities, despite the warnings of her friends and family, invested her inheritance in a jojoba plantation. e. The president of U-Stor-It, which was on the brink of bankruptcy after the warehouse fire, the worst tragedy in the history of the company, prepared a press announcement.

6.17 Revising Messages: Camouflaged Verbs Rewrite each sentence so that the verbs are no longer camouflaged: a. Adaptation to the new rules was performed easily by the employees.

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174 PART II  APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS

b. The assessor will make a determination of the tax due. c. Verification of the identity of the employees must be made daily. d. The board of directors made a recommendation that Mr. Rossini be assigned to a new division. e. The auditing procedure on the books was performed by the vice president. f. I believe Caitlyn apparently has somewhat greater influence over employees in the accounting department. g. It seems as if this letter of resignation means you might be leaving us.

6.18 Producing Messages: Design Elements Review a copy of the syllabus your instructor provided for this course. Which design elements were used to improve readability? Can you identify ways to make the document easier to read or more user-friendly in general? Create your own version, experimenting with different design elements and design choices. How do your changes affect readability? Exchange documents with another student and critique each other’s work.

6.20 Teamwork: Peer Review Team up with another student and exchange your revised versions of Document 6.A or 6.B (see exercises under “Practise Your Knowledge”). Review the assignment to ensure that the instructions are clear. Then read and critique your teammate’s revision to see whether it can be improved. After you have critiqued each other’s work, take a moment to examine the way you expressed your comments and how you felt listening to the other student’s comments. Can you identify ways to improve the critiquing process in situations such as this?

6.21 Proofreading Messages: Email Proofread the following email message and revise it to correct any problems you find: Our final company orrientation of the year will be held on Dec. 20. In preparation for this sesssion, please order 20 copies of the Policy handbook, the confindentiality agreenemt, the employee benefits Manual, please let me know if you anticipate any delays in obtaining these materials.

6.19 Web Design: Readability

6.22 Ethical Choices: Message Distribution

Visit the Wildlands League website at www.wildlandsleague. org and evaluate the use of design in presenting the network’s programs and features. What design improvements can you suggest to enhance readability of the information posted on this page?

Three of your company’s five plants exceeded their expense budgets last month. You want all the plants to operate within their budgets from now on. You want to use email to let all five managers see the memo you’re sending to the managers of the three over-budget plants. Is this a good idea? Why or why not?

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7

Crafting Messages for Electronic Media

LEARNING OBJECTIVES  After studying this chapter, you will be able to

1

Identify the electronic media available for short messages, and discuss the challenges of communicating through social media

2

Describe the use of social networks, user-generated content sites, community Q&A sites, and community participation sites in business communication

3

Describe the evolving role of email in business communication, and explain how to adapt the three-step writing process to email messages

4

Describe the business benefits of instant messaging (IM), and identify guidelines for effective IM in the workplace

ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT

5

Describe the role of blogging and microblogging in business communication today, and explain how to adapt the three-step writing process to blogging

6

Explain how to adapt the three-step writing process to podcasting

MyLab Business Communication  Visit MyLab Business Communication to access a variety of online resources directly related to this chapter’s content.

PETRO-CANADA Answering Consumer Concerns through Blogging

Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock

www.pumptalk.ca

Petro-Canada’s multiauthor blog, PumpTalk, features articles by employees who write about gas pricing and fuel efficiency in a friendly and clear manner.

Starting in 2006 with YouTube videos that responded in plain talk to questions about the varying price of gas, Petro-Canada’s social media venture has grown into a full online presence best represented by their PumpTalk blog. A Suncor Energy business, with more than 1500 gas stations across Canada, the Petro-Canada brand is familiar to millions of Canadians, who can connect with the company through its YouTube channel, Flickr photostream, Twitter feed, and LinkedIn and Facebook pages. Online subjects include fuel efficiency, driver safety and driving tips, vehicle maintenance and oil industry news, and corporate topics such as Petro-Canada’s community support. The PumpTalk blog (available separately as Blogue Pleins gaz for French-speaking readers) is an online forum that discusses topics of daily concern to Canadians who want explanations about their gas dollars. The contributors to PumpTalk are Julie Siabanis, PetroCanada’s social media advisor in the refining and marketing division, who came to the company with a background in automotive marketing and research, and Corinn Smith, senior advisor for communications and stakeholder relations, who sees the blog’s goal as to be “a place where questions can be asked and conversations can be facilitated. You might not always like our answers or explanations, but we strive to 175

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176 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

provide a place where we can share.” Rounding out the contributing team are Rosemary Row of LinkBucket Media (one of Suncor’s partner agencies), who writes and edits web content for Suncor eCommunications, and guest bloggers from partners of the Petro-Points loyalty program. Blog entries are written in a familiar, accessible style, with headings such as “Out of the Ground and into the Pump—Getting Fuel to You” and “Trunk or Treats and Spooky Cars: When Hallowe’en Hits the Road.” The light tone engages the reader, but the

content—such as how crude oil is processed into gasoline or a reminder to drive safely on a favourite holiday—is communicated in a clear and straightforward way. Visitors can access archives, which contain blogs on such topics as long weekend gas pricing and links of interest, such as gas price influencers. Participation is encouraged, with the advice to “stay on topic” and “refrain from strong language.” If you wrote for the PumpTalk blog, how would you analyze its audience? How would you prepare and write your entries?1

Electronic Media for Business Communication 1

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Identify the electronic media available for short messages, and discuss the challenges of communicating through social media.

Even with the widespread use of electronic media, printed memos, and letters still play an important role in business communication.

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Petro-Canada could have used any number of media to communicate with its customers about the price of gas and other fuel-related issues. However, the choice of a blog post is significant because it represents a fundamental change in business communication and the relationships between companies and their stakeholders, a change enabled by the rapid growth of social media. Figure 7–1 shows the rapid rise and wide reach of four major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube, all of which you probably access on a daily basis. The considerable range of electronic media available for brief business messages continues to grow as communication technologies evolve: • Social networking and community participation sites. Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, user-generated content (UGC) sites such as YouTube and Instagram, community Q&A sites, and a variety of social bookmarking and tagging sites provide an enormous range of communication tools. • Email. Although it is replaced in many instances by other tools that provide support for instant communication and real-time collaboration, email continues to be an effective medium for reaching customers, colleagues, and partners. Statistics show that there were 2.6 billion email users around the world in 2016, with predictions for 2020 topping 3 billion users sending 257.7 billion emails (many of these from mobile devices).2 • Instant messaging (IM). IM usage rivals email in many companies. IM offers greater speed than email, as well as simple operation and fewer problems with unwanted messages or security and privacy problems. • Text messaging. Phone-based text messaging has a number of applications in business communication, including order and status updates, marketing and sales messages, electronic coupons, and customer service.3 • Blogging and microblogging. The ability to update content quickly and easily makes blogs and microblogs (such as Twitter) a natural medium when communicators want to get messages out quickly. • Podcasting. You may be familiar with podcasts as the online equivalent of recorded radio or video broadcasts (video podcasts are often called vidcasts or vodcasts). Businesses are now using podcasts to replace or supplement some conference calls, newsletters, training courses, and other communication activities. • Online video. Now that YouTube and similar websites have made online video available to hundreds of millions of web users, video has been

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transformed from a fairly specialized tool to a mainstream business communication medium. More than half of the world’s largest companies now have their own branded channels on YouTube, for example.4 The lines between these media often get blurry as systems expand their capabilities or people use them in new ways. For example, Facebook Messages integrates IM, text messages, and email capabilities, in addition to being a social networking system.5 Similarly, some people consider Twitter to be a social network, and it certainly offers some of that capability. However, because blog-like messaging is Twitter’s core function, this chapter classifies it as a microblogging system. Most of your business communication is likely to be via electronic means, but don’t overlook the benefits of printed messages such as letters and memos. Here are several situations in which you should consider using a printed message rather than electronic alternatives:

Courtesy: Tracx, https://www.tracx.com/resources/blog/social-media-demographics-2017-marketers

• When you want to make a formal impression. For special messages, such as sending congratulations or condolences, the formality of printed documents usually makes them a much better choice than electronic messages. • When you are legally required to provide information in printed form. Business contracts and government regulations sometimes require that information be provided on paper. The laws that cover such disclosures continue to evolve, so make sure you consult with your firm’s legal staff if you’re not sure. • When you want to stand out from the flood of electronic messages. Ironically, the growth of electronic messages creates an opportunity for printed memos and letters. If your audience’s computers are overflowing with Twitter updates, email, and IM, sometimes a printed message can stand out enough to get noticed. • When you need a permanent, unchangeable, or secure record. Letters and memos are reliable. Once printed, they can’t be erased with a single keystroke or surreptitiously modified the way some electronic messages can be. Printed documents are also more difficult to copy and forward. Again, most of your on-the-job communication is going to be through electronic media. This chapter focuses on electronic media for brief business messages.

COMPOSITIONAL MODES FOR ELECTRONIC MEDIA As you use electronic media in this course, it’s best to focus on the principles of social media communication and the fundamentals of planning, writing, and completing messages, rather than on the specific details of any one medium or system.6 Fortunately, the basic communication skills required usually transfer from one system to another. You can succeed with written communication in virtually all electronic media by using one of nine compositional modes: • Conversations. IM is a great example of a written medium that mimics spoken conversation. With IM, the ability to think, compose, and type relatively quickly is important to maintaining the flow of an electronic conversation. • Comments and critiques. One of the most powerful aspects of social media is the opportunity for interested parties to express opinions and provide feedback. Sharing helpful tips and insightful commentary is also a great way to build your personal brand. To be an effective commenter, focus on short chunks of information that a broad spectrum of other site visitors will find helpful.

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Figure 7–1  Social Media Stats Infographic 2017

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178 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

Communicating successfully with electronic media requires a wide range of writing approaches.

• Orientations. The ability to help people find their way through an unfamiliar system or new subject is a valuable writing skill and a talent that readers greatly appreciate. Unlike summaries (see next item), orientations don’t give away the key points in the collection of information but rather tell readers where to find those points and how to navigate through the collection. • Summaries. At the beginning of an article or webpage, a summary functions as a miniature version of the document, giving readers all the key points while skipping over details. For example, Figure 7–2 shows “Pearson Canada at a Glance,” outlining the company’s mission and the services it provides. In some instances, a summary is all a reader needs. At the end of an article or webpage, it functions as a review, reminding readers of the key points they’ve just read. • Reference material. One of the challenges of planning and writing reference material is that people typically don’t read such material in a linear sense but rather search through to find particular data points, trends, or other specific elements. Making the information accessible via search engines is an important step. However, readers don’t always know which search terms will yield the best results, so include an orientation, and organize the material in logical ways with clear headings that promote skimming. • Narratives. Narratives work best when they have an intriguing beginning that ignites readers’ curiosity, a middle section that moves quickly through the challenges that an individual or company faced, and an inspiring or

The heading “Pearson Canada at a Glance” signals the presence of a summary.

The video provides a brief overview of the Mission of and Services provided by Pearson Canada. Text follows the video and offers more in-depth information.

Figure 7–2  Writing Summaries for Electronic Media Courtesy: Pearson Canada

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instructive ending that gives readers information they can apply in their own lives and jobs. • Teasers. Teasers intentionally withhold key pieces of information as a way to pull readers or listeners into a story or other document. In electronic media, the space limitations and URL linking capabilities of Twitter and other microblogging systems make them a natural tool for the teaser approach. Be sure that the payoff, the information a teaser links to, is valuable and legitimate. • Status updates and announcements. If you use social media frequently, much of your writing will involve status updates and announcements. Be sure to post only those updates that readers will find useful, and include only the information they need. • Tutorials. Given the community nature of social media, the purpose of many messages is to share how-to advice. Becoming known as a reliable expert is a great way to build customer loyalty for your company while enhancing your own personal value.

With Twitter and other super-short messaging systems, the ability to write a compelling teaser is an important skill.

As you approach a new communication task using electronic media, ask yourself what kind of information audience members are likely to need and then choose the appropriate compositional mode. Of course, many of these modes are also used in written media, but over time you may find yourself using all of them in various electronic and social media contexts. Whichever mode you decide to use, be sure your message is consistent with your brand and other media postings.

CREATING CONTENT FOR SOCIAL MEDIA No matter what media or compositional mode you are using for a particular message, writing for social media requires a different approach from traditional media. Social media have changed the relationship between the sender and the receiver, so the nature of the message needs to change as well. Whether you’re writing a blog or posting a product demonstration video to YouTube, consider these tips for creating successful content for social media:7 • Remember that it’s a conversation, not a lecture or a sales pitch. One of the great appeals of social media is the feeling of conversation, of people talking with one another instead of one person talking at everyone else. For all its technological sophistication, in an important sense social media provide a new spin on the age-old practice of word-of-mouth communication. Companies often encourage employees to act as brand ambassadors, but there is an associated risk of sharing confidential information and compromising trade secrets. Effective social media policies are designed to provide guidelines on acceptable practices. • Write informally but not carelessly. Write as a human being, not as a cog in a faceless corporate machine. At the same time, don’t get sloppy; no one wants to slog through misspelled words and poorly constructed sentences to find the message. • Create concise, specific, and informative headlines. Avoid the temptation to engage in clever wordplay with headlines. This advice applies to all forms of business communication, of course, but it is essential for social media. Readers don’t want to spend time and energy figuring out what your witty headlines mean. Search engines won’t know what they mean, either, so fewer people will find your content. • Get involved and stay involved. Social media understandably make some businesspeople nervous because they don’t permit a high level of control over messages. However, don’t hide from criticism. Take the opportunity to correct misinformation or explain how mistakes will be fixed.

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A momentary lapse of concentration while using social media can cause tremendous career or company damage.

• If you need to promote something, do so indirectly. Just as you wouldn’t hit people with a company sales pitch during an informal social gathering, refrain from blatant promotional efforts in social media. • Be transparent and honest. Honesty is always essential, of course, but a particular issue that has affected the reputations of a few companies in recent years is hiding behind an online blogging persona—either a fictitious character whose writing is actually done by a corporate marketing specialist or a real person who fails to disclose an affiliation with a corporate sponsor. • Think before you post! Because of careless messages, individuals and companies have been sued for Twitter updates, employees have been fired for Facebook wall postings, vital company secrets have been leaked, and business and personal relationships have been strained. Unless you are sending messages through a private channel, assume that every message will be read by people far beyond your original audience.

Social Networking and Community Participation Sites 2

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe the use of social networks, usergenerated content sites, community Q&A sites, and community participation sites in business communication.

Social networks, online services that enable individual and organizational members to form connections and share information, have become a major force in business communication. For example, Facebook is now the most-visited website on the Internet, and a number of companies, such as Adidas, Red Bull, and Starbucks, have millions of fans on their Facebook pages.8 This section takes a look at the business communication uses of social networks and a range of related technologies, including user-generated content (UGC) sites, community Q&A sites, and community participation sites.

SOCIAL NETWORKS Businesses now use several types of social networks, including public, generalpurpose networks such as Facebook and Google+; public, business-oriented networks (LinkedIn is the largest of these); and a variety of specialized networks. This last group includes networks that help small-business owners get support and advice, those that connect entrepreneurs with investors, and those, such as Segway Social and Specialized, created by individual companies to enhance the sense of community among their customer bases. Some companies have built private social networks for internal use only. For example, Lockheed Martin created its Unity network, complete with a variety of social media applications, to meet the expectations of younger employees accustomed to social media and to capture the expert knowledge of older employees nearing retirement.9 Business communicators make use of a wide range of social networks.

Social networks are vital tools for distributing information as well as gathering information about the business environment.

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BUSINESS COMMUNICATION USES OF SOCIAL NETWORKS  With their ability to reach virtually unlimited numbers of people through a variety of electronic formats, social networks are a great fit for many business communication needs (see Table 7–1). In fact, a significant majority of consumers now want the businesses they patronize to use social networking for distributing information and interacting with customers—and companies that aren’t active in social networking risk getting left behind.10 In addition to the collaboration uses discussed earlier in the text, here are some of the key business applications of social networks: • Gathering market intelligence. With hundreds of millions of people expressing themselves via social media, you can be sure that smart companies are listening. For example, sentiment analysis is an intriguing research

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Table 7–1

Business Uses of Social Networking Technology

Business Challenge

Example of Social Networking in Action

Supporting customers

Allowing customers to develop close relationships with product experts within the company

Integrating new employees

Helping new employees navigate their way through the organization, finding experts, mentors, and other important contacts

Easing the transition after reorganizations and mergers

Helping employees connect and bond after internal staff reorganizations or mergers with other organizations

Overcoming structural barriers in communication channels

Bypassing the formal communication system in order to deliver information where it is needed in a timely fashion

Assembling teams

Identifying the best people, both inside the company and in other companies, to collaborate on projects

Fostering the growth of communities

Helping people with similar—or complementary—interests and skills find each other in order to provide mutual assistance and development

Solving problems

Finding “pockets of knowledge” within the organization—the expertise and experience of individual employees

Preparing for major meetings and events

Giving participants a way to meet before an event takes place, helping to ensure that the meeting or event becomes more productive more quickly

Accelerating the evolution of teams

Accelerating the sometimes slow process of getting to know one another and identifying individual areas of expertise

Maintaining business relationships

Giving people an easy way to stay in contact after meetings and conferences

Sharing and distributing information

Making it easy for employees to share information with people who may need it and for people who need information to find employees who might have it

Finding potential customers, business partners, and employees

Identifying strong candidates by matching user profiles with current business needs and linking from existing member profiles

technique in which companies track social networks and other media with automated language-analysis software that tries to take the pulse of public opinion and identify influential opinion makers. Social media can be “an incredibly rich vein of market intelligence,” says Margaret Francis, an expert in online business strategies.11 • Recruiting new employees and finding business partners. Companies use social networks to find potential employees, short-term contractors, subjectmatter experts, product and service suppliers, and business partners. On LinkedIn, for example, members can recommend each other based on current or past business relationships, which helps remove the uncertainty of initiating business relationships with complete strangers. • Sharing product information. Businesses don’t invest time and money in social networking simply to gain fans. The ultimate goal is profitable, sustainable relationships with customers, and attracting new customers is one of the primary reasons businesses use networks and other social media.12 However, the traditional notions of marketing and selling need to be adapted to the social networking environment because customers and potential customers don’t join a network merely to be passive recipients of advertising messages. They want to participate, to connect with fellow enthusiasts, to share knowledge about products, to communicate with company insiders, and to influence the decisions that affect the products they value. This notion of interactive participation is the driving force behind conversation marketing, in which companies initiate and facilitate conversations in a networked community of customers and other interested parties.

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Product promotion can be done on social networks, but it needs to be done in a low-key, indirect way.

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182 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

• Fostering brand communities. Social networking is playing an important role in the rapid spread of brand communities, groups of people united by their interest in and ownership or use of particular products. As Figure 7–3 shows, SunRype has a substantial fan base on Facebook, giving the company the opportunity to connect with thousands of enthusiastic customers. These communities can be formal membership organizations, such as the Certified Management Accountants Group, or informal networks of people with similar interests. They can be fairly independent from the company behind the brand or can have the active support and involvement of company management.13 A strong majority of consumers now trust their peers more than any other source of product information—including conventional advertising techniques—so formal and informal brand communities are becoming an essential information source in consumer buying decisions.14 Continuing innovations such as Google+’s Sparks feature, which helps people connect with others with common interests, will make social networks even more important in developing brand communities. STRATEGIES FOR BUSINESS COMMUNICATION ON SOCIAL NETWORKS  Social networks offer many communication options, but with those opportunities comes a certain degree of complexity. Moreover, the norms and practices of business social networking continue to evolve. Follow these guidelines to make the most of social networks for both personal branding and company communication:15

SunRype makes use of the timeline to provide company history for fans.

In keeping with the norms of social media, product promotion is understated.

The wall posts are on topics that appeal to fans.

Figure 7–3  Business Communication on Social Networks: SunRype Courtesy Facebook

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• Choose the best compositional mode for each message, purpose, and network. As you visit various social networks, take some time to observe the variety of message types you see in different parts of each website. For example, the informal status update mode works well for Facebook wall posts but would be less effective for company overviews and mission statements. • Join existing conversations, in addition to starting your own. Search for online conversations that are already taking place. Answer questions, solve problems, and respond to rumours and misinformation. • Anchor your online presence in your hub. Although it’s important to join conversations and be visible where your stakeholders are active, it’s equally important to anchor your presence at your own central hub—a web presence that you own and control. This can be a conventional website or a combination of a website, a blog, and a company-sponsored online community, for example.16 Use the hub to connect the various “spokes” of your online presence (as an individual or a company) to better coordinate outgoing messages and to provide a clear inbound path for people who want to engage with you. As part of this, take advantage of the many automated links that are available on social media platforms. For example, you can link to your blog from your LinkedIn profile or automatically feed your blog entries onto your Facebook page. • Facilitate community building. Make it easy for customers and other audiences to connect with the company and with each other. For example, you can use the group feature on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks to create and foster special-interest groups within your networks. Groups are a great way to connect people who are interested in specific topics, such as owners of a particular product. Provide a “sweet spot” where your audience can land with frequent updates on topics of interest.17 • Restrict conventional promotional efforts to the right time and right place. Persuasive communication efforts are still valid for specific communication tasks, such as regular advertising and the product information pages on a website, but efforts to inject blatant “salespeak” into social networking conversations will usually be rejected by the audience. • Maintain a consistent personality. Each social network is a unique environment with particular norms of communication.18 For instance, as a business-oriented network, LinkedIn has a more formal “vibe” than Facebook. However, while adapting to the expectations of each network, be sure to maintain a consistent personality.19 The computer giant HP uses the same (fairly formal-sounding) company overview on LinkedIn and Facebook, while its wall updates on Facebook are “chattier” and more in keeping with the tone expected by Facebook visitors.20 • Manage conversational threads. Conversations with customers and other important parties often carry over to multiple messages, involve multiple employees, and sometimes cross over multiple media as well (such as when a Twitter conversation is moved to direct messaging for privacy). With so many channels in place, companies often use systems to track these conversational threads so that messages aren’t dropped and all parties can communicate productively.

Communicating via social networks is complicated and requires a thoughtful, well-integrated strategy.

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

“While your social network can identify potential opportunities, help you build trust in your

area of expertise, and position you to stay top of mind with future clients, you can’t forget that business is still done face-to-face. This means that turning your efforts into revenue for your firm will require you to move your online relationship offline.



Sarah Johnson, certified financial planner

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USER-GENERATED CONTENT SITES

YouTube, now a major channel for business communicators, hosts everything from product demonstration videos to TV commercials.

Creating compelling and useful content is the key to leveraging the reach of social networks.

User-generated content (UGC) sites, where users rather than website owners contribute most or all of the content, have also become serious business tools. In fact, research suggests that video company profiles on YouTube have more measurable impact than company profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other prominent sites.21 Video (including screencasts, recordings of onscreen activity on a computer with audio narration) is a powerful medium for product demonstrations, interviews, industry news, training, facility tours, and other uses. Moreover, the business communication value of sites such as YouTube goes beyond the mere ability to deliver content. The social aspects of these sites, including the ability to vote for, comment on, and share material, encourage enthusiasts to spread the word about the companies and products they endorse.22 As with other social media, the keys to effective user-generated content are making it valuable and making it easy. First, provide content that people want to see and to share with colleagues. A video clip that explains how to use a product more effectively will be more popular than a clip that talks about how amazing the company behind the product is. Second, make material easy to find, consume, and share. Short (no more than 3 to 5 minutes), personalized, and interactive videos tend to grab attention and promote more frequent sharing on social media sites.23 For example, a branded channel on YouTube lets a company organize all its videos in one place, making it easy for visitors to browse the selection or subscribe to get automatic updates of future videos. Sharing features let fans share videos through email or their accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms. Figure 7–4 shows how the software company Autodesk hosts its community participation site for customers who work in the fields of digital entertainment and visualization. Users can ask questions and share quick tips, advice, and ideas on how to best work with the software in video games, animations, product designs, and other creative projects. They can also read blogs written by Autodesk employees or contribute

Users can exchange best practices, seek solutions to problems, and exchange ideas.

In addition to tutorials, company employees share their expertise via blogs.

Information sharing is further encouraged by asking users to write about their real-world project experiences.

Figure 7–4  Community Participation Sites Courtesy: Autodesk, Inc.

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articles about their real-world experiences. Tutorials are available and can be sorted using an advanced search option.

COMMUNITY Q&A SITES Community Q&A sites, where visitors answer questions posted by other visitors or by representatives of companies, are useful for routine communication such as customer support questions. Examples include dedicated customer support communities such as those hosted on Get Satisfaction (http://getsatisfaction. com), public sites such as Yahoo! Answers (http://answers.yahoo.com) and Quora (www.quora.com), and member-only sites such as LinkedIn Help Center (http:// help.linkedin.com). Responding to questions on Q&A sites can be an effective way to build your personal brand, to demonstrate your company’s commitment to customer service, and to counter misinformation about your company and its products.

Community Q&A sites offer great opportunities for building your personal brand.

COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION SITES Community participation sites are designed to pool the inputs of multiple users in order to benefit the community as a whole (see Figure 7–4). These include social bookmarking or content recommendation sites such as Delicious (http://del .icio.us), Digg (www.digg.com), and StumbleUpon (www.stumbleupon.com); group buying sites such as Groupon (www.groupon.com); crowdsourcing sites such as InnoCentive (www.innocentive.com) that invite people to submit or collaborate on research challenges and product designs; and product and service review websites that compile reviews from people who have purchased products or patronized particular businesses. As one example of the way these sites are changing business communication, Yelp (www.yelp.ca) has become a major influence on consumer behaviour at a local level by aggregating millions of reviews of stores, restaurants, and other businesses in large cities across Canada and the United States.24 With the voice of the crowd affecting consumer behaviour, businesses need to (1) focus on performing at a high level so that customers reward them with positive reviews and (2) get involved on Yelp. (The site encourages business owners to tell potential customers about themselves as well.) These efforts could pay off much more handsomely than advertising and other conventional communication efforts.

Community participation sites pool the input of multiple users in order to benefit the community as a whole.

Email Email has been a primary business communication medium for many years, although newer tools such as instant messaging (IM), blogs, microblogs, social networks, and shared workspaces are taking over specialized tasks for which they are better suited.25 In fact, email can seem out of step in a world of instantaneous and open communication, where many users are accustomed to rapidfire updates from Twitter, public forums on social networks, and never-ending streams of incoming information.26 However, email still has compelling advantages that will keep it in steady use in many companies, even as it evolves and becomes integrated with other electronic media. First, email is universal. Anybody with an email address can reach anybody else with an email address, no matter which systems the senders and receivers are on. You don’t need to join a special group or be friended by anyone in order to correspond. Second, email is still the best medium for many private, short- to medium-length messages. Unlike with microblogs

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3

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe the evolving role of email in business communication, and explain how to adapt the three-step writing process to email messages.

Email can seem a bit “old school” in comparison to social networks and other technologies, but it is still one of the more important business communication media.

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and IM, for instance, mid-size messages are easy to compose and easy to read on email. Third, email’s noninstantaneous nature is an advantage when used properly. Many business messages don’t need the rapid update rates of IM or Twitter, and the implied urgency of those systems can be a productivitysapping interruption. Email allows senders to compose substantial messages in private and on their own schedule, and it allows recipients to read those messages at their leisure.

PLANNING EMAIL MESSAGES Avoid sending unnecessary messages or “cc”-ing people who don’t really need to see particular messages. Email presents considerable legal hazards, and many companies have formal email policies.

Respect the chain of command in your company when sending email messages.

The biggest complaints about email are that there is just too much of it and that too many messages are of little or no value. You can help with this problem during the planning step by making sure every message has a useful, businessrelated purpose. Be aware that many companies now have formal email policies that specify how employees can use email, including restrictions against using company email service for personal messages and sending material that might be deemed objectionable. In addition, many employers now monitor email, either automatically with software programmed to look for sensitive content or manually via security staff actually reading selected email messages. Regardless of formal policies, though, every email user has a responsibility to avoid actions that could cause trouble, from downloading virus-infected software to sending inappropriate photographs. Email hygiene refers to all the efforts that companies are making to keep email clean and safe—from spam blocking and virus protection to content filtering.27 Finally, be sure to respect the chain of command. In many companies, any employee can email anyone else, including the president and CEO. However, take care that you don’t abuse this freedom. For instance, don’t send a complaint straight to the top just because it’s easy to do so. Your efforts will be more effective if you follow the organizational hierarchy and give each person a chance to address the situation in turn.

WRITING EMAIL MESSAGES Business email messages are more formal than the email messages you send to family and friends.

A poorly written subject line could lead to a message being deleted or ignored.

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Business email is a more formal medium than you are probably accustomed to with email for personal communication (see Figure 7–5, which shows an efficient email). The expectations of writing quality for business email are higher than for personal email, and the consequences of bad writing or poor judgment can be much more serious. For example, email messages and other electronic documents have the same legal weight as printed documents, and they are often used as evidence in lawsuits and criminal investigations.28 Follow these tips for effective email messages: • Give your messages a single purpose. Effective emails avoid confusing readers with several purposes. Don’t ask your reader to attend a meeting and also congratulate her on surpassing her sales quota in the same email; develop each purpose in separate messages.29 • Make your subject line informative. The email subject line is one of the most important parts of an email message because it helps recipients decide which messages to read and when to read them. To capture your audience’s attention, make your subject lines informative and compelling. Go beyond simply describing or classifying your message; use the opportunity to build interest with keywords, quotations, directions, or questions. 30 For example, “July sales results” accurately describes the content of the message, but “July sales results: good news and bad news”

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Burgman includes enough of the original message to remind Williams why she is writing—but doesn’t clutter the screen with the entire original message.

7 She opens with an informal salutation appropriate for communication between colleagues.

She includes the URL of the website she wants Williams to visit, so all he needs to do is click on the link.

By itemizing the steps she wants Williams to follow, she makes it easy for him to respond and helps ensure that the work is done correctly.

Her email signature includes alternative contact information, making it easy for the recipient to reach her.

The warm complimentary close expresses her appreciation for his efforts.

QHƂEG OQDKNG

Figure 7–5  Email for Business Communication

is more intriguing. Readers will want to know why some news is good and some is bad. Also, if you and someone else are replying back and forth based on the same original message, periodically modify the subject line of your message to reflect the revised message content. When numerous messages have identical subject lines, trying to find a particular one can be confusing and frustrating. For instance, if you come up with a solution to the scheduling problem on the website redesign project, modify the subject line to read something like “Website redesign: staffing solution” so that people can find that specific message when they need to. • Phrase the introduction carefully. Many email programs display the first few words or lines of incoming messages, even before the recipient opens them. As noted by social media public relations expert Steve Rubel, you can “tweetify” the opening lines of your email messages to make them stand out. In other words, choose the first few words carefully to grab your reader’s attention.31 • Make your email easy to follow. Paragraph length, topic sentences, headings and lists, and white space will ensure your message is read. Write short, focused, logically organized paragraphs, and use topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph to make your email easy to follow. Skip two lines between paragraphs so that each paragraph stands out. By using bulleted or numbered lists (use a hyphen if your reader’s email system will not accept graphic bullets), you will also improve the readability of your message. Insert headings for lengthy emails (use capital letters so that headings are distinct) at the top of main sections to make your text easy to review.32

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COMPLETING EMAIL MESSAGES

Think twice before hitting “Send.” A simple mistake in your content or distribution can cause major headaches.

Table 7–2

Particularly for important messages, taking a few moments to revise and proofread might save you hours of headaches and damage control. The more important the message, the more carefully you need to proof. Also, favour simplicity when it comes to producing your email messages. A clean, easily readable font, in black on a white background, is sufficient for nearly all email messages. Take advantage of your email system’s ability to include an email signature, a small file that automatically includes such items as your full name, title, company, and contact information at the end of your messages. When you’re ready to distribute your message, pause to verify what you’re doing before you click “Send.” Make sure you’ve included everyone necessary— and no one else. Don’t click “Reply All” when you mean to click only “Reply.” The difference could be embarrassing or even career threatening. Don’t include people in the “cc” (courtesy copy) or “bcc” (blind courtesy copy) fields unless you know how these features work. (Everyone who receives the message can see who is on the cc line but not who is on the bcc line.) Also, don’t set the message priority to “high” or “urgent” unless your message is truly urgent. And if you intend to include an attachment, be sure that it is indeed attached. To review the tips and techniques for successful email, see Table 7–2 and “Checklist: Creating Effective Email Messages.”

Tips for Effective Email Messages

Tip

Why It’s Important

When you request information or action, make it clear what you’re asking for, why it’s important, and how soon you need it; don’t make your reader write back for details.

People will be tempted to ignore your messages if they’re not clear about what you want or how soon you want it.

When responding to a request, either paraphrase the request or include enough of the original message to remind the reader what you’re replying to.

Some businesspeople get hundreds of email messages a day and may need to be reminded what your specific response is about.

If possible, avoid sending long, complex messages via email.

Long messages are easier to read as printed reports or web content.

Adjust the level of formality to the message and the audience.

Overly formal messages to colleagues are perceived as stuffy and distant; overly informal messages to customers or top executives are perceived as disrespectful.

Activate a signature file, which automatically pastes your contact information into every message you create.

You save the trouble of retyping vital information and ensure that recipients know how to reach you through other means.

Don’t let unread messages pile up in your in-basket.

You’ll miss important information and create the impression that you’re ignoring other people.

Never type in all caps.

ALL CAPS ARE INTERPRETED AS SHOUTING.

Don’t overformat your messages with background colours, coloured type, unusual fonts, and so on.

Such messages can be difficult and annoying to read onscreen, or they might appear as a scrambled message on the screen of the receiver.

Remember that messages can be forwarded anywhere and saved forever.

Don’t let a moment of anger or poor judgment haunt you for the rest of your career.

Use the “return receipt requested” feature only for the most critical messages.

This feature triggers a message back to you whenever someone receives or opens your message; many consider this an invasion of privacy.

Make sure your computer has up-to-date virus protection.

One of the worst breaches of “netiquette” is unknowingly infecting other computers because you haven’t bothered to protect your own system.

Pay attention to grammar, spelling, and capitalization.

Some people don’t think email needs formal rules, but careless messages make you look unprofessional and can annoy readers.

Use acronyms sparingly.

Shorthand such as IMHO (in my humble opinion) and LOL (laughing out loud) can be useful in informal correspondence with colleagues, but don’t use them in formal messages.

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✓Checklist

Creating Effective Email Messages

A. Plan email messages. • Make sure every email message you send is necessary. • Follow company email policy; understand the restrictions your company places on email usage. • Practise good email hygiene by not opening suspicious messages, keeping virus protection up to date, and following other company guidelines. • Follow the chain of command. B. Write email messages. • Remember that business email is more formal than personal email. • Recognize that email messages carry the same legal weight as other business documents. • Pay attention to the quality of your writing, and use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. • Make your subject lines informative by clearly identifying the purpose of your message. • Give messages a single purpose, and make your subject lines compelling by wording them in a way that intrigues your audiences.

• Use the first few words of the email body to catch the reader’s attention (e.g., keywords, quotations, directions, questions). • Use effective formatting, including headings to break up lengthy content, to make your email easy to follow. C. Complete email messages. • Revise and proofread carefully to avoid embarrassing mistakes. • Keep the layout of your messages simple and clean. • Use an email signature file to give recipients your contact information. • Double-check your recipient list before sending. • Don’t cc or bcc anyone who doesn’t really need to see the message. • Don’t mark messages as “urgent” unless they truly are urgent. • When sending messages back and forth, periodically modify the subject line to reflect revised message content.

Instant Messaging and Text Messaging Computer-based instant messaging (IM), in which users’ messages appear on each other’s screens instantly, is used extensively for internal and external communication. IM is available in both stand-alone systems and as a function embedded in groupware, collaboration systems, social networks, and other platforms. Phone-based text messaging (sometimes known as short messaging service or SMS) has many applications in business, including marketing (alerting customers about new sale prices, for example), customer service (such as airline flight status, order status, package tracking, and appointment reminders), security (for example, authenticating mobile banking transactions), crisis management (such as updating all employees working at a disaster scene), and process monitoring (alerting computer technicians to system failures, for example).33 As it becomes more tightly integrated with other communication media, text messaging is likely to find even more widespread use in business communication. For example, texting is now integrated into systems such as Facebook Messages and Gmail, and branded “StarStar numbers” can deliver web-based content such as videos, software apps, and electronic coupons to mobile phones.34 The advice offered in this section applies primarily to IM but is relevant to text messaging as well.

4

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe the business benefits of instant messaging (IM), and identify guidelines for effective IM in the workplace.

UNDERSTANDING THE BENEFITS AND RISKS OF IM The benefits of IM include rapid response to urgent messages, lower cost than phone calls, ability to mimic conversation more closely than email, and availability on a wide range of devices and systems.35 In addition, because it more closely resembles one-on-one conversation, IM doesn’t get misused as a one-to-many broadcast method as often as email does.36

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IM offers many benefits: • Rapid response • Low cost • Ability to mimic conversation • Wide availability

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The potential drawbacks of IM include security problems (computer viruses, network infiltration, and the possibility that sensitive messages might be intercepted by outsiders), the need for user authentication (making sure that online correspondents are really who they appear to be), the challenge of logging messages for later review and archiving (a legal requirement in some industries), incompatibility between competing IM systems, and spim (unsolicited commercial messages, similar to email spam). Fortunately, with the growth of enterprise instant messaging (EIM), or IM systems designed for large-scale corporate use, many of these problems are being overcome.

ADAPTING THE THREE-STEP PROCESS FOR SUCCESSFUL IM Although instant messages are often conceived, written, and sent within a matter of seconds, the principles of the three-step process still apply: View every IM exchange as a conversation with a specific goal in mind.

• Planning instant messages. View every IM exchange as a conversation; while you may not deliberately plan every individual statement you make or question you pose, take a moment to plan the overall exchange. If you’re requesting something, think through exactly what you need and the most effective way to ask for it. If someone is asking you for something, consider his or her needs and your ability to meet them before you respond. And although you rarely need to organize instant messages in the sense of creating an outline, try to deliver information in a coherent, complete way that minimizes the number of individual messages required. • Writing instant messages. As with email, the appropriate writing style for business IM is more formal than the style you may be accustomed to with personal IM or text messaging. You should generally avoid IM acronyms (such as FWIW for “for what it’s worth” or HTH for “hope that helps”) except when communicating with close colleagues. In the IM exchange in Figure 7–6,

(GXDUGR/RSHV:LQQLSHJ6DOHV

(GXDUGR/RSHV:LQQLSHJ0%&DQDGD 6DOHV5HSUHVHQWDWLYH 0RELOH   /RFDO7LPHSP

Delong communicates in a style that is concise and conversational but still professional.

Even in a fast, informal medium such as IM, Delong quickly reviews her message before sending it each time.

The system provides the position and contact information and a photo of the person on the other end, which helps to personalize this purely electronic communication.

The system provides simple formatting tools, a spellchecker, and a set of emoticons for writers who wish to use them.

Figure 7–6  Instant Messaging for Business Communication

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notice how the participants communicate quickly and rather informally but still maintain good etiquette and a professional tone. This style is even more important if you or your staff use IM to communicate with customers and other outside audiences. • Completing instant messages. One of the biggest attractions of IM is that the completing step is so easy. You don’t have to produce the message in the usual sense, and distribution is as simple as hitting “Enter” or clicking a “Send” button. However, don’t skip over the revising and proofreading tasks. Quickly scan each message before you send it, to make sure you don’t have any missing or misspelled words and that your message is clear and complete. Regardless of the system you’re using, you can make IM more efficient and effective by following these tips:37 • Unless an IM conversation or meeting is scheduled, make yourself unavailable when you need to focus on other work. • If you’re not on a secure system, don’t send confidential information. • Be extremely careful about sending personal messages—they have a tendency to pop up on other people’s computers at embarrassing moments. • Don’t use IM for important but impromptu meetings if you can’t verify that everyone concerned will be available. • Unless your system is set up for it, don’t use IM for lengthy, complex messages; email is better for those. • Try to avoid carrying on multiple IM conversations at once, to minimize the chance of sending messages to the wrong people or making one person wait while you tend to another conversation. • Follow all security guidelines designed to keep your company’s information and systems safe from attack.

Understand the guidelines for successful business IM before you begin to use it.

To review the advice for effective IM in the workplace, see “Checklist: Using IM Productively.”

✓Checklist

Using IM Productively

• Pay attention to security and privacy issues, and be sure to follow all company guidelines. • Treat IM as a professional communication medium, not an informal, personal tool; avoid using IM slang with all but close colleagues. • Maintain good etiquette, even during simple exchanges.

• Protect your own productivity by making yourself unavailable when you need to focus. • In most instances, don’t use IM for confidential messages, complex messages, or personal messages. • Review messages before sending them. • Avoid multiple IM conversations in order to minimize sending messages to the wrong person or causing unnecessary delays in response.

Blogging and Microblogging A blog (short for weblog) is an easily updatable online journal that can combine the global reach and reference value of a conventional website with the conversational exchanges of email or IM. Blogging first began to catch on in business communication because blogs provided a much easier way for senders to update and distribute fresh content and for receivers to get new information automatically (through feeds or newsfeeds, of which RSS is the best known). Blogging also began to take on a more personal and informal tone than regular business websites, helping to “put a human face” on companies

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5

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe the role of blogging and microblogging in business communication today, and explain how to adapt the threestep writing process to blogging.

Blogs combine the global reach and value of a website with the conversational exchanges of email or IM.

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and increase the lines of communication between experts and executives on the inside and customers and other stakeholders on the outside. Another important role that blogging has acquired is making individuals and companies easier to find through search engines.38 With all these benefits, blogs are now a common tool in business communication, and many companies have multiple bloggers, writing either as a team on an individual blog (as with Petro-Canada) or on their own blogs. Good business bloggers pay close attention to several important elements: • Communicating with personal style and an authentic voice. Traditional business messages designed for large audiences tend to be carefully scripted and written in a “corporate voice” that is impersonal and objective. In contrast, successful business blogs such as Petro-Canada’s are written by individuals

Table 7–3

Tips for Effective Business Blogging

Tip

Why It’s Important

Don’t blog without a clear plan.

Without a clear plan, your blog is likely to wander from topic to topic and fail to build a sense of community with your audience.

Post frequently; the whole point of a blog is fresh material.

If you won’t have a constant supply of new information or new links, create a traditional website instead.

Make it about your audience and the issues that are important to them.

Readers want to know how your blog will help them, entertain them, or give them a chance to communicate with others who have similar interests.

Write in an authentic voice; never create an artificial character who supposedly writes a blog.

Flogs, or fake blogs, violate the spirit of blogging, show disrespect for your audience, and will turn audiences against you as soon as they uncover the truth. Fake blogs used to promote products are now illegal in some countries.

Link generously—but carefully.

Providing interesting links to other blogs and websites is a fundamental aspect of blogging, but make sure the links will be of value to your readers and don’t point to inappropriate material.

Keep it brief.

Most online readers don’t have the patience to read lengthy reports. Rather than writing long, report-style posts, write brief posts that link to in-depth reports on your website.

Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want the entire world to see.

Future employers, government regulators, competitors, journalists, and community critics are just a few of the people who might eventually see what you’ve written.

Don’t engage in blatant product promotion.

Readers who think they’re being advertised to will stop reading.

Take time to write compelling, specific headlines for your postings.

Readers usually decide within a couple of seconds whether to read your postings; boring or vague headlines will turn them away instantly.

Pay attention to spelling, grammar, and mechanics.

No matter how smart or experienced you are, poor-quality writing undermines your credibility with intelligent audiences.

Respond to criticism openly and honestly.

Hiding sends the message that you don’t have a valid response to the criticism. If your critics are wrong, patiently explain why you think they’re wrong. If they are right, explain how you’ll fix the situation.

Listen and learn.

If you don’t take the time to analyze the comments people leave on your blog or the comments other bloggers make about you, you’re missing out on one of the most valuable aspects of blogging.

Respect intellectual property.

Improperly using material you don’t own is not only unethical but can be illegal as well.

Be scrupulously honest and careful with facts.

Honesty is an absolute requirement for every ethical business communicator, of course, but you need to be extra careful online because inaccuracies (both intentional and unintentional) are likely to be discovered quickly and shared widely.

If you review products on your blog, disclose any beneficial relationships you have with the companies that make those products.

Bloggers who receive free products or other compensation from companies whose products they write about are now required to disclose the nature of these relationships.

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and exhibit their personal style. Audiences relate to this fresh approach and often build closer emotional bonds with the blogger’s organization as a result. • Delivering new information quickly. The ability to post new material as soon as you create it helps you to respond quickly when needed (such as during a crisis), and it lets your audiences know that an active conversation is taking place. • Choosing topics of peak interest to audiences. Successful blogs cover topics that readers care about, and they emphasize useful information while downplaying product promotion.39 These topics don’t need to be earth shaking or cutting edge—they just need to be things that matter to target readers. For instance, a pair of researchers at Clorox blog for the company under the name “Dr. Laundry,” dispensing helpful advice on removing stains and tackling other household chores.40 • Encouraging audiences to join the conversation. Not all blogs invite comments, although most do. These comments can be a valuable source of news, information, and insights. In addition, the relatively informal nature of blogging seems to make it easier for company representatives to let their guards down and converse with their audiences. Of course, not all comments are helpful or appropriate, which is why many bloggers moderate comments, previewing them before allowing them to be displayed.

Most business blogs invite readers to leave comments as a way to encourage participation among stakeholders.

Table 7–3 offers a number of specific suggestions for successful business blogging.

UNDERSTANDING THE BUSINESS APPLICATIONS OF BLOGGING Blogs are a potential solution whenever you have a continuing stream of information to share with an online audience—and particularly when you want the audience to have the opportunity to respond. Here are some of the many ways businesses are using blogs:41 • Anchoring the social media presence. The multiple threads of any social media program should be anchored in a central hub that the company or individual owns and controls. Blogs make an ideal social media hub. • Project management and team communication. Using blogs is a good way to keep project teams up to date, particularly when team members are geographically dispersed. For instance, the trip reports that employees file after visiting customers or other external parties can be enhanced vividly with mobile blogs, or moblogs. • Internal company news. Companies can use blogs to keep employees informed about general business matters, from facility news to benefit updates. By reducing the need for grapevines to spring up, blogs can enhance communication across all levels of a company. • Customer support. Customer support blogs answer questions, offer tips and advice, and inform customers about new products. • Public relations and media relations. Many company employees and executives now share company news with both the general public and journalists via their blogs. • Recruiting. Using a blog is a very effective way to let potential employees know more about your company, the people who work there, and the nature of the company culture, as shown in GE’s Twitter recruiting feed (see Figure 7–7). Conversely, companies can scan blogs and microblogs to find promising candidates. • Policy and issue discussions. Executive blogs in particular provide a public forum for discussing legislation, regulations, and other broad issues of interest to an organization.

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The business applications of blogs include a wide range of internal and external communication tasks.

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GE uses the background image on its Twitter page to provide a small amount of customized information (in this case, the list of GE divisions whose job openings are posted via this Twitter account).

Note that this Twitter account allows visitors to find information by searching for or monitoring hashtag terms.

Figure 7–7  Recruiting on Twitter Courtesy General Electric, Inc.

• Crisis communication. Using blogs is an efficient way to provide up-to-theminute information during emergencies, correct misinformation, or respond to rumours. • Market research. Blogs can be a clever mechanism for soliciting feedback from customers and experts in the marketplace. In addition to using its own blogs for research, every company needs to monitor blogs that are likely to discuss its operations, executives, and products. Negative product reviews, rumours, and other information can spread across the globe in a matter of hours, and managers need to know what the online community is saying— whether it’s positive or negative. Reputation analysts such as Evolve24 (www .evolve24.com) have developed ways to automatically monitor blogs and other online sources to see what people are saying about their corporate clients and evaluate risks and opportunities in the global online conversation.42 • Brainstorming. Online brainstorming via blogs offers a way for people to toss around ideas and build on one another’s contributions. • Word-of-mouth marketing. Bloggers and microbloggers often make a point of providing links to other blogs and websites that interest them, giving marketers a great opportunity to have their messages spread by enthusiasts. (Word-of-mouth marketing is often called viral marketing in reference to the transmission of messages in much the same way that biological viruses are transmitted from person to person. However, viral marketing is not really an accurate metaphor. As industry analyst and blogger Brian Solis puts it, “There is no such thing as viral marketing.”43 Real viruses spread from host to host on their own, whereas word-of-mouth marketing spreads voluntarily from person to person. The distinction is critical, because you need to give people a good reason—good content, in other words—to pass along your message.) • Influencing traditional media news coverage. According to social media consultant Tamar Weinberg, “the more prolific bloggers who provide valuable and consistent content are often considered experts in their subject matter” and are often called upon when journalists need insights into various topics.44 • Community building. Blogging is a great way to connect people with similar interests, and popular bloggers often attract a community of readers who connect with one another through the commenting function.

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BUSINESS COMMUNICATION 2.0

Let Social Media Work for You

Social media tools continue to evolve and offer more than ways to post family reunion photos, keep current with friends, or follow your favourite celebrity or cause. They have become an integral part of doing business (business to business [B2B] and business to consumer [B2C]) and opened alternate and potentially efficient channels to network, connect with customers and colleagues, and stay up to date with global events. However, if we don’t pay attention, the time spent perusing and communicating on social networks and the information that we share or like can actually become a source of stress and anxiety and detract us from achieving our goals. Here are a few ideas for getting social media to work for you as a business professional: • Inform yourself about your company’s social media policies. Many businesses have guidelines on how they would like their employees to engage with social media. These guidelines explain business and legal implications. • Keep business and personal communications separate. Don’t send personal messages via company email or IM systems. Don’t store any personal data (photos or other files) on company electronic devices. Watch what you post on your social media networks. Keep current on privacy tools. Privacy settings are not always “private”; by being aware of this you can avoid potentially embarrassing situations or liability issues.

• Don’t download or share questionable content, (e.g., videos or photos). The content you download and share reflects on you as a professional. Perceptions of you are influenced by what you share. Furthermore, companies are liable for any digital content that is saved and transmitted. As well, you risk inviting viruses and phishing schemes. • Look for popular blogs within your industry to identify best practices, and contribute to the content there. Check your company guidelines regarding sharing and web contributions. Be respectful when providing your viewpoint. Contribute regularly, but keep your message current and consistent across networks. • Manage the information that is coming to you via social media updates. Determine the type of information you will need in order to achieve your goals, whether they relate to a project or to moving along your career path. Don’t be distracted by “edu-tainment.” Review your sources regularly to see if they are still relevant. To avoid information overload, eliminate those sources that are no longer useful. CAREER APPLICATIONS 1. Is sending personal messages via company email a good idea? Explain. 2. How can you determine whether a social media source is worth paying attention to?

Emily Bennington, “Social Media in the Workplace: Setting Standards,” Monster, https://hiring.monster.com/hr/hr-best-practices/small-business/socialmedia-trends/employee-social-media-policy.aspx; Government of Canada, “Official Use of Social Media, Guideline On,” March 4, 2014, https://www.tbssct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=27517; Jennifer Bond and George Waggott, “Social Media Policies in the Workplace: What Works Best?”, The Canadian Bar Association, September 24, 2014, http://www.cba.org/Publications-Resources/CBA-Practice-Link/2015/2014/Social-media-policies-in-the-workplace-Whatworks; Travis Balinas, “Social Media Etiquette for Business: 25 Do’s and Don’ts, OutboundEngine, February 1, 2017, https://www.outboundengine.com/ blog/social-media-etiquette-for-business-25-dos-donts/; and Your Workplace Staff, “The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media,” Your Workplace, September 15, 2003, http://www.yourworkplace.ca/the-dos-and-donts-of-social-media/3/.

The possibilities of blogs are almost unlimited, so be on the lookout for new ways to use them to foster positive relationships with colleagues, customers, and other important audiences.

ADAPTING THE THREE-STEP PROCESS FOR SUCCESSFUL BLOGGING The three-step writing process is easy to adapt to blogging tasks. The planning step is particularly important if you’re considering starting a blog, because you’re planning an entire communication channel, not just a single message. Pay close attention to your audience, your purpose, and your scope: • Audience. Defining the target audience for a blog can be challenging. You want an audience large enough to justify the time you’ll be investing but narrow enough that you can meet readers’ needs and not try to be all things to all people. • Purpose. A business blog needs to have a business-related purpose that is important to your company and to your chosen audience. Tammy Beltrami, owner of Aria Boutique clothing store, uses her blog and a variety of other

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Before you launch a blog, have a clear understanding of your target audience, the purpose of your blog, and the scope of subjects you plan to cover.

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social media tools to build a sense of community among her customers and to promote the store in a way that is compelling without being obtrusive (see Figure 7–8). Moreover, the purpose has to “have legs”—that is, it needs to be something that can drive the blog’s content for months or years. For instance, if you’re a technical expert, you might create a blog to give the audience tips and techniques for using your company’s products more effectively—a never-ending subject that’s important to both you and your audience. This would be the general purpose of your blog; each posting would have a specific purpose within the context of that general purpose. Including links to relevant business and industry blogs is another way to provide information that is important to your audience. Finally, whether you are writing on a company blog or your own personal blog, make sure you understand your employer’s blogging guidelines.45 • Scope. Defining the scope of your blog can be a bit tricky. You want to cover a subject area that is broad enough to offer discussion possibilities for months or years but narrow enough to have an identifiable focus. Write blog postings in a comfortable— but not careless—style.

Use a comfortable, personal writing style in your blog. Blog audiences don’t want to hear from your company; they want to hear from you. Bear in mind, though, that comfortable does not mean careless. Sloppy writing damages your credibility. Successful blog content also needs to be interesting, valuable to readers, and as brief as possible.46 In addition, although audiences expect you to be knowledgeable in the subject area your blog covers, you don’t need to know everything about a topic. If you don’t have all the information yourself, provide

Links to other social media sites help her build an audience and connect with readers.

Beltrami posts articles that interest her readers and encourage them to engage with her.

Category listings make it easy for readers to find posts of interest.

Figure 7–8  Elements of an Effective Business Blog Courtesy: Aria Boutique

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links to other blogs and websites that supply relevant information. In fact, media curation, selecting content that will be useful and interesting to your target audience, in much the same way that museum curators decide which pieces of art to display, is one of the most valuable aspects of blogging. As with email subject lines, compelling headlines for blog posts are an essential tool to draw in readers. A headline needs to grab the reader’s attention in a split second by promising something useful, surprising, challenging, or otherwise different from what the reader already knows. Headlines should be as short as possible and suggest that the information in the post will be easy to read and use. “List” headlines that cut right to the heart of something readers care about, such as “10 Reasons You Didn’t Get that Promotion” or “Seven Ways to Save Money with Your Smartphone,” are particularly popular among bloggers. Completing messages for your blog is usually quite easy. Evaluate the content and readability of your message, proofread to correct any errors, and post using your blogging system’s tools. Be sure to include one or more newsfeed options (often called RSS newsfeeds) so that your audience can automatically receive headlines and summaries of new blog posts. Whatever blogging system you are using can provide guidance on setting up newsfeeds. Make your material easier to find by tagging it with descriptive words. Visitors to your blog who want to read everything you’ve written about recruiting just click on that word to see all your posts on that subject. Tagging can also help audiences locate your posts on social bookmarking sites. Monitor traffic to your blog and use tools such as Google Analytics to identify which sources generate conversations.47

MICROBLOGGING A microblog is a variation on blogging in which messages are restricted to specific character counts. Twitter (http://twitter.com) is the best known of these systems, but many others exist. Some companies have private microblogging systems for internal use only; these systems are sometimes referred to as enterprise microblogging or internal micromessaging.48 Many of the concepts of regular blogging apply to microblogging as well, although the severe length limitations call for a different approach to composition. The current limit on Twitter, for instance, is 140 characters, including spaces, and if you include a URL, the limit for the rest of the message is 120 characters. Microblog messages often involve short summaries or teasers that provide links to more information. In fact, Twitter updates are frequently used to announce or promote new posts on regular blogs. In addition, microblogs tend to have a stronger social networking aspect that makes it easier for writers and readers to forward messages and for communities to form around individual writers.49 Like regular blogging, microblogging quickly caught on with business users and is now a mainstream business medium. Microblogs are used for virtually all of the blog applications mentioned earlier. In addition, microblogs are frequently used for providing company updates, offering coupons and notice of sales, presenting tips on product usage, sharing relevant and interesting information from experts, serving as the backchannel in meetings and presentations, and interacting with customers individually. For example, outdoor clothing and equipment supplier Patagonia uses Twitter both as a general communication tool and as a way to interact with their customers one-to-one. Like many companies they respond to customer queries and complaints posted on Twitter. They also retweet topics important to their customers which provides value and builds a community based on shared interests. As microblogging evolves, the technology is gaining features that continue to enhance its value as a business communication medium. On Twitter,

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for instance, users have adopted the hashtag (the # symbol followed by a unique term) to help readers track topics of interest. For example, to establish a backchannel for a conference, you can create a unique hashtag (such as #WBSDCC, the hashtag used by Warner Brothers during a recent San Diego Comic-Con50) to help people follow messages on a particular subject. Retweeting, the practice of forwarding messages from other Twitter users, is the microblogging equivalent of sharing content from other bloggers via media curation. Finally, keep in mind that Twitter is a publishing platform. Unless you set your account to private, anyone can see and search for your tweets—and every public tweet from every Twitter user is being archived by the U.S. Library of Congress.51 “Checklist: Blogging for Business” summarizes some of the key points to remember when creating and writing a business blog.

✓Checklist

Blogging for Business

• Consider creating a blog or microblog account whenever you have a continuing stream of information to share with an online audience. • Identify an audience that is broad enough to justify the effort but narrow enough to have common interests. • Identify a purpose that is comprehensive enough to provide ideas for a continuing stream of posts. • Consider the scope of your blog carefully; make it broad enough to attract an audience but narrow enough to keep you focused. • Include links to relevant business and industry blogs.

• Communicate with a personal style and an authentic voice but don’t write carelessly. • Deliver new information quickly and regularly. • Choose topics of peak interest to your audience. • Encourage audiences to join the conversation. • Consider using Twitter or other microblog updates to alert readers to new posts on your regular blog. • Make your material easier to find by tagging it with descriptive words. • Monitor traffic to your blog regularly and analyze reader behaviour and preferences.

Podcasting 6

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain how to adapt the three-step writing process to podcasting.

Podcasting is the process of recording audio or video files and distributing them online. Although podcasting is not used as widely as blogging and some other electronic media, it does offer a number of interesting possibilities for business communication.

UNDERSTANDING THE BUSINESS APPLICATIONS OF PODCASTING Podcasting can be used to deliver a wide range of audio and video messages.

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The most obvious use of podcasting is to replace existing audio and video messages, such as one-way teleconferences in which a speaker provides information without expecting to engage in conversation with the listeners. Training is another good use of podcasting; you may have already taken a course via podcasts. Marketing departments can replace expensive printed brochures with video podcasts that demonstrate new products in action. Sales representatives who travel to meet with potential customers can listen to audio podcasts or view video podcasts to get the latest information on their companies’ products. Human resources departments can offer video tours of their companies to entice new recruits. Podcasts are also an increasingly common feature on blogs, letting audiences listen to or watch recordings of their favourite bloggers. Some services can even transcribe blogs into podcasts and vice versa.52

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ADAPTING THE THREE-STEP PROCESS FOR SUCCESSFUL PODCASTING Although it might not seem obvious at first, the three-step writing process adapts quite nicely to podcasting. First, focus the planning step on analyzing the situation, gathering the information you’ll need, and organizing your material. One vital planning step depends on whether you intend to create podcasts for limited use and distribution (such as a weekly audio update to your virtual team) or a podcasting channel with regular recordings on a consistent theme designed for a wider public audience. As with planning a blog, if you intend to create a podcasting channel, be sure to think through the range of topics you want to address over time to verify that you have a sustainable purpose.53 As you organize the content for a podcast, pay close attention to previews, transitions, and reviews. These steering devices are especially vital in audio recordings because audio lacks the headings and other elements that audiences rely on in print media. Moreover, scanning back and forth to find specific parts of an audio or video message is much more difficult than with textual messages, so you need to do everything possible to make sure your audience successfully receives and interprets your message on the first try. One of the attractions of podcasting is the conversational, person-to-person feel of the recordings, so unless you need to capture exact wording, speaking from an outline and notes rather than a prepared script is often the best choice. However, no one wants to listen to rambling podcasts that take several minutes to get to the topic or struggle to make a point, so don’t try to make up your content on the fly. Effective podcasts, like effective stories, have a clear beginning, middle, and end. The completing step is where podcasting differs most dramatically from written communication, for the obvious reason that you are recording and distributing audio or video files. Particularly for more formal podcasts, start by revising your script or thinking through your speaking notes before you begin to record. Also, think about the language and images of your content. The closer you can get to recording your podcasts in one take, the more productive you’ll be, because editing audio is more time consuming than editing text. Figure 7–9 illustrates the basic process of recording and distributing podcasts, but the process can vary depending on such factors as the production quality you need to achieve and whether you plan to record in a studio setting or on the go (using a mobile phone or digital recorder to capture your voice). Most personal computers, smartphones, and other devices now have basic audio recording capability, including built-in microphones, and free editing software is available online (at http://audacity.sourceforge.net, for example). If you need higher production quality or greater flexibility, you’ll need additional pieces of hardware and software, such as an audio processor (to filter out extraneous noise and otherwise improve the audio signal), a mixer (to combine multiple audio or video signals), a better microphone, more sophisticated recording and editing software, and perhaps some physical improvements in your recording

1. Install recording software

2. Connect and verify microphone

3. Click the Record button and start talking

4. Review your file and edit if needed

5. Convert file to MP3 format and save

The three-step process adapts quite well to podcasting.

Steering devices such as transitions, previews, and reviews are vital in podcasts.

Plan your podcast content carefully; editing is more difficult with podcasts than with textual messages.

6. Create and validate your feed

7. Upload your file and let RSS alert your subscribers

Program_01.mp3

Figure 7–9  The Podcasting Process

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location to improve the acoustics. You can find more information at Podcast Alley (www.podcastalley.com/forum). Podcasts can be distributed in several ways, including through media stores such as iTunes, by dedicated podcast hosting services, or on a blog with content that supports the podcast channel. If you distribute your podcast on a blog, you can provide additional information and use the commenting feature of the blog to encourage feedback from your audience.54 For a quick review of the key points of business podcasting, see “Checklist: Planning and Producing Business Podcasts.”

✓Checklist

Planning and Producing Business Podcasts

• Consider podcasting whenever you have the opportunity to replace existing audio or video messages. • If you plan a podcast channel with a regular stream of new content, make sure you’ve identified a theme or purpose that is rich enough to sustain your effort. • Pay close attention to previews, transitions, and reviews to help prevent your audience from getting lost.

• Decide whether you want to improvise or speak from a written script. • If you improvise, do enough planning and organization to avoid floundering and rambling in search of a point. • Remember that editing is much more difficult to do with audio or video than with textual media and plan your content and recording carefully.

SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1 Identify the electronic media available for short messages, and discuss the challenges of communicating through social media. Electronic media available for short messages are social networking and community participation sites, email, instant messaging, text messaging, blogging and microblogging, podcasting, and online video. Communication challenges when using social media include the fact that it may not suit certain kinds of messages, such as sending congratulations or condolences. Social media may prevent your message from reaching your audiences, because your audience may be overwhelmed with electronic messages. Finally, social media is characterized by its impermanence and lack of security: it does not provide a lasting, unchangeable, or secure record of information, characteristics essential to many types of business communication.

2 Describe the use of social networks, user-generated content sites, community Q&A sites, and community participation sites in business communication. Social networks (such as Facebook and LinkedIn) are important for recruiting employees, obtaining business partners and business advice, and developing customer relationships. They are also important means for gathering market intelligence, sharing product information, and fostering brand communities. For successful use of social networks, be sure to select the right message type for each topic, purpose, and network; join conversations in addition to starting your own; base your presence in a central location, such as your website; use ready-made connections for

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audience participation; limit promotional efforts to avoid audience rejection; suit your online personality for each digital medium; and manage threads effectively.

3 Describe the evolving role of email in business communication, and explain how to adapt the three-step writing process to email messages. Email has been partially replaced by new tools such as instant messaging, blogs, microblogs, social networks, and shared workspaces, some of which are more instantaneous methods of sending and responding to messages. However, email still has its place in business communication: it is universally available; it is the best medium for private messages; and its mid-size messages are easy to compose and read, unlike microblogs and IM. Because of its nature, email allows senders to compose substantial messages at their leisure. When planning email messages, be sure to follow company policies about sensitive content and general email use. When writing emails, make both subject lines and the first few words of the message informative and compelling and apply high writing standards and good judgment, as messages have the same legal weight as printed documents. When completing emails, revise and proofread carefully, include a professional email signature, and don’t click “Send” until you’ve clearly determined your recipients.

4 Describe the business benefits of instant messaging (IM), and identify guidelines for effective IM in the workplace. Instant messaging has the ability to mimic conversation, offers a rapid response (for example, it can provide emergency alerts during crisis management), is

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inexpensive, and has wide availability. When planning instant messages, view them as conversations with specific purposes and objectives. When preparing these messages, maintain a more formal style, avoiding IM acronyms, because you are writing for business audiences. When completing your message, be sure to revise and proofread, to avoid mistakes that may affect your professional image.

5 Describe the role of blogging and microblogging in business communication today, and explain how to adapt the three-step writing process to blogging. In business, blogging can be used to anchor an organization’s social media presence, communicate company news both internally and externally, streamline team communication, provide customer support, recruit employees, serve as public forums for policy discussions, and market products. When planning blogs, be sure to understand your blog’s purpose, target audience, and topic’s scope. When writing blogs, use a personal style that shows your per-

ON THE JOB

6 Explain how to adapt the three-step writing process to podcasting. First, plan your podcast by analyzing the situation, gathering the necessary information, and organizing it. Also determine the frequency of distribution and the topics to be addressed over time. Second, prepare the podcast by thinking about the language and images of your content and guiding devices such as previews, transitions, and reviews. Prepare a speaking outline and notes, rather than a script, so that the podcast sounds conversational and personal. Third, because editing podcasts is more difficult than editing videocasts or written text, review your outline carefully before recording.

PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT PETRO-CANADA

You recently joined the corporate communications staff at Petro-Canada, and one of your responsibilities is editing the PumpTalk blog. Study the scenarios that follow and apply what you learned about blogging in this chapter to choose the best course of action. 1. Pressure is building to stop the practice of moderating the blog by reviewing reader comments and selecting which ones will appear online. You’ve received a number of adamant messages saying that PumpTalk won’t be a “real” blog until anyone is allowed to write any sort of comment without being “censored” by the company. However, you know that every blog is vulnerable to inappropriate and irrelevant comments, and you don’t want PumpTalk to turn into a free-for-all shouting match. Which of the following messages should you post on the blog to explain that the current policy of reviewing and filtering comments will continue? a. There are plenty of free-for-all blogs and websites on the Internet; if you want to rant and rave, I suggest you try one of those. b. Please bear in mind that this blog is a Petro-Canada company commercial communication endeavour and, as such, it must adhere to company standards for communication style. I therefore regret to inform you that we cannot allow a free-form, unmonitored exchange as part of this blog. c. Our blog; our rules. Seriously, though, this is a professional communication channel designed primarily to give Petro-Canada staff the opportunity to share their thoughts with customers and vice versa. As such, we need to make sure that the primary messaging effort doesn’t get lost in the noise that can flare up in unregulated online forums.

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sonality, but be sure it follows correct writing practices. Your blog content should be useful and interesting to your reader, and headlines should grab attention. Completing blogs requires careful proofreading and editing, as for any message, and inclusion of a newsfeed option so audiences can automatically receive new posts.

d. Every web surfer knows that online discussions can get a little out of hand at times, degenerating into shouting matches, name calling, and off-topic rants. In order to continue providing the congenial, information-driven blog that readers have come to expect, we believe it is necessary to exercise a minimal amount of control over the content. 2. The multiauthor concept generally works well for PumpTalk. It divides the writing workload, and it gives readers the opportunity to hear from several voices discussing different topics. One member of the team is moving to another position in the company, so you need to recruit a new blogger to replace her. Your plan is to send an email message to everyone in the company, providing a brief reminder of the blog’s purpose, describing the writing style you’re looking for, and inviting interested writers to submit sample blog entries for evaluation. Which of the following paragraphs is the best way to describe the preferred writing style for the blog? (This message is for employees only; it won’t be seen by the public.) a. PumpTalk has connected with thousands of readers because the writing is engaging (people want to read and respond), personal (readers want to get to know real, live human beings, not a faceless corporation), honest (we don’t sugar-coat anything or hide from criticism), and friendly (our readers want to enjoy the experience). b. What kind of writing are we looking for? Well, let me tell you exactly what we need. We need writing that is above all (1) engaging—it makes people want to read and become involved in the conversation. Plus, (2), the writing must be personal; we don’t need anybody to repeat “the company line” here; we want your unique thoughts and opinions. However, (3), we, of course

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(!), need writing that is consistent with PumpTalk’s approach that combines honesty with friendliness. c. You should be able to produce copy that meets the following criteria: Your writing must be engaging, personal, honest, and friendly. Writing that does not meet these criteria, no matter how well written in other respects, will not be accepted for online publication. d. I’ll be short and to the point: the writing we want for this blog must be engaging, personal, honest, and friendly. 3. For the sample blog entries you solicited in your email message, you asked candidates to start their entries with a brief paragraph introducing themselves. Which of the following seems like the most compatible style for PumpTalk? a. Hi everyone! I’m Janice McNathan, and I couldn’t be more excited to be joining PumpTalk! I’ve worked at some great companies before, but nobody seems to have as much fun as the PumpTalk blog guys, so I know I’m going to have a great time writing for this blog! b. Charlie Parker here. I’m just a lowly auditor. Pretty much, I keep tabs on accounts and I make sure all the

paperwork stays in order. I can’t promise any exciting stories of adventure in the oil fields, but maybe something interesting will come up. Maybe you’d like some discussion of the financial side of the oil industry? c. I’m Rick Munoz, and I’ve always wanted to be a professional writer. My career sort of took a detour, though, and I wound up as a programmer who works behind the scenes at the Petro-Canada website. I really appreciate this opportunity to hone my craft, and who knows—maybe this will be the break I need to make it as a “real” writer. You’ll be able to say “I knew that guy before he became famous!” d. Excuse me while I wipe the oil off my hands; I don’t want to mess up this shiny new keyboard! Hi, I’m Kristal Yan, a field mechanic at Petro-Canada’s facility in Lewis, Alberta. I’ve been an avid reader of PumpTalk since it started, and I really look forward to participating in this wonderful conversation. I hope to provide some interesting observations from the field. Feel free to ask any questions you may have about drilling and how things work in the oil fields.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. What are the compositional modes for electronic media? 2. What should you avoid when using social media for business purposes? 3. What are the marketing uses of social networks?

7. Why is instant messaging usage overtaking email in many companies? 8. Who is the optimum audience for a blog? 9. How does one write for a blog?

4. What are effective practices for user-generated content sites?

10. How is microblogging relevant to business communication?

5. How do you capture your reader’s attention in email?

11. When should you use podcasts?

6. When should the “cc” and “bcc” features be used in email?

APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. Given the strict limits on length, should all your microblogging messages function as teasers that link to more detailed information on a blog or website? Why or why not? 2. Is leveraging your connections on social networks for business purposes ethical? Why or why not? 3. Communication on a major project is suffering because several team members are in the habit of writing cryptic or careless instant messages that often force recipients to engage in several rounds of follow-up messaging to figure out what the sender had in mind. As project leader, you’ve spoken with these team members about the need to write clearer messages, but they respond that careful planning and writing defeats the whole purpose of instant messaging. How should you handle the situation? 4. If one of the benefits of blogging and microblogging is the personal, intimate style of writing, is it a good idea to limit your creativity by adhering to conventional rules of grammar, spelling, and mechanics? Why or why not?

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5. In your work as a video game designer, you know that eager players search the Web for any scrap of information they can find about upcoming releases. In fact, to build interest, your company’s public relations department carefully doles out small bits of information in the months before a new title hits the market. However, you and others in the company are also concerned about competitors getting their hands on all this “prerelease” information. If they learn too much too soon, they can use the information to improve their own products more quickly. You and several other designers and programmers maintain blogs that give players insights into game design techniques and that occasionally share tips and tricks. You have thousands of readers, and you believe that your blog helps build customer loyalty. The company president wants to ban blogging entirely so that bloggers don’t accidentally share too much prerelease information about upcoming games. Would this be a wise move? Why or why not?

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RUNNING CASES > CASE 1  Noreen Noreen has been asked to create an entry for the new blog at the Petro-Go website. All visitors to the website can read the blog, which is edited by Petro-Go’s director of corporate communications. Management at all levels will post messages that focus on Petro-Go’s environmental awareness, community relations, and community investment. The blog catchphrase is “We care about the communities we live and work in.” Management wants to promote goodwill with current and potential customers. They want to be viewed as “the good gas company.” Posts will discuss new and continuing initiatives, future goals, donations, and sponsorships. QUESTIONS a. Should all website visitors be allowed to add content to the blog and not just management? Why or why not?

> CASE 2  Kwong Kwong’s manager asks him to work with the IT specialist and put together the first of a series of 52 video podcasts (also known as vidcasts or vodcasts). One podcast will be uploaded to the company website each week. The podcasts will give website visitors tips on personal and business tax planning and reporting. This first podcast will show Kwong discussing personal tax planning. Kwong’s manager hopes that existing and potential customers will find value in the videos. QUESTIONS a. Before creating the first podcast for the series, what questions will Kwong need to ask his manager? b. How can Kwong make the podcast interesting? c. Why are previews, transitions, and reviews more important in video and audio recordings than they are in print media? d. Is Kwong the right employee to represent the company on this podcast? For the podcast series? Explain your answer. e. Could this company benefit from including a blog on its website? Why or why not?

b. Will this blog help attract new customers and retain existing customers? Explain your answer. c. How often should new postings be uploaded? Why? d. Give two other blog topics that might help attract visitors to the site and that would be appropriate for this company. e. Who would be most interested in reading the blog? Why? YOUR TASK As Noreen, write a posting for the blog about how your team’s office is going green. Include an interesting heading for your post. Do an online search to discover ways in which business offices are becoming more eco-friendly. Incorporate some of those eco-friendly practices in your post. Email your proposed posting to your instructor for approval. Remember to format the email message in a professional manner.

YOUR TASK The podcast’s purpose is to offer tax planning tips to existing and potential customers. Narrow the scope of the topic for this first podcast to three personal tax tips. You will need to review government taxation guidelines before offering suggestions to your audience. You may wish to include some helpful website URLs for your audience. Prepare a document for your instructor that details the information to be conveyed in the podcast and the order in which it will be presented. Use the following document headings: Plan (the podcast’s setting, length, and main points), Introduction (including a preview of topics), Body (the three tips you will discuss and the information you will share), and Conclusion (how you will conclude). Apply the three-step writing process and remember to use previews, transitions, and reviews in your dialogue. Email your proposed plan for the podcast to your instructor for approval. Remember to format the email message in a professional manner.

PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE MESSAGE 7.A: IMPROVING IM SKILLS Review this IM exchange and explain how the customer-service agent could have handled the situation more effectively. Agent:

T hanks for contacting Home Exercise Equipment. What’s up? Customer:  I’m having trouble assembling my home gym. Agent: I hear that a lot! LOL Customer: So is it me or the gym? Agent: Well, let’s see. Where are you stuck?

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Customer: T he crossbar that connects the vertical pillars doesn’t fit. Agent: What do you mean doesn’t fit? Customer: It doesn’t fit. It’s not long enough to reach across the pillars. Agent: Maybe you assembled the pillars in the wrong place. Or maybe we sent the wrong crossbar. Customer: How do I tell? agent: The parts aren’t labelled so could be tough. Do you have a measuring tape? Tell me how long your crossbar is.

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MESSAGE 7.B: DRAFTING EFFECTIVE BLOG POSTS Revise the following blog post based on what you’ve learned in this chapter. [headline] We’re DOOMED!!!!! [post] I was at the Sikorsky plant in Stratford yesterday, just checking to see how things were going with the assembly line retrofit we did for them last year. I think I saw the future, and it ain’t pretty. They were demo’ing a prototype robot from Motoman that

absolutely blows our stuff out of the water. They wouldn’t let me really see it, but based on the 10-second glimpse I got, it’s smaller, faster, and more manoeuvrable than any of our units. And when I asked about the price, the guy just grinned. And it wasn’t the sort of grin designed to make me feel good. I’ve been saying for years that we need to pay more attention to size, speed, and manoeuvrability instead of just relying on our historical strengths of accuracy and payload capacity, and you’d have to be blind not to agree that this experience proves me right. If we can’t at least show a design for a better unit within two or three months, Motoman is going to lock up the market and leave us utterly in the dust. Believe me, being able to say “I told you so” right now is not nearly as satisfying as you might think!!

EXERCISES 7.1 Media: Selecting the Right Medium for Your Message For each of these message needs, choose a medium that you think would work effectively and explain your choice. (More than one medium could work in some cases; just be prepared to support your particular choice.) a. A technical support service for people trying to use their digital music players b. A message of condolence to the family of an employee who passed away recently c. A message from the CEO of a small company to the employees of the firm, explaining that she is leaving the company to join a competitor d. A series of observations on the state of the industry, intended mostly for professionals within the industry e. A series of messages, questions, and answers surrounding the work of a team assigned to a confidential company project

7.2 Social Networking: Creating a Blog Post Pick a company in any industry that interests you. Imagine you are doing strategic planning for this firm and need to identify one of your company’s key competitors. (Hint: You can use the free listings on www.hoovers.com to find several top competitors for most medium and large companies in Canada and the United States; search for a company, then on that company’s profile page click on a company in the Top 3 Competitors area.) Now search through the competitor’s website to find three strategically relevant pieces of information, such as the hiring of a new executive or the launch of a major new product. In a post on your class blog, share the information you found and the sources you used. (If you can’t find useful information at the company’s site, pick another company or try another industry.)

7.3 Email: Writing Informative Subject Lines Using your imagination to make up whatever details you need, revise the following email subject lines to make them more informative:

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a. New budget figures b. Marketing brochure—your opinion c. Production schedule

7.4 Email: Writing Correctly The following email message contains numerous errors related to what you’ve learned about planning and writing business messages. Using the information it contains, write a more effective version. FROM: Felicia August SUBJECT: Those are the breaks, folks Some of you may not like the rules about break times; however, we determined that keeping track of employees while they took breaks at times they determined rather than regular breaks at prescribed times was not working as well as we would have liked it to work. The new rules are not going to be an option. If you do not follow the new rules, you could be docked from your pay for hours when you turned up missing, since your direct supervisor will not be able to tell whether you were on a “break” or not and will assume that you have walked away from your job. We cannot be responsible for any errors that result from your inattentiveness to the new rules. I have already heard complaints from some of you and I hope this memo will end this issue once and for all. The decision has already been made. Starting Monday, January 1, you will all be required to take a regular 15-minute break in the morning and again in the afternoon, and a regular 30-minute lunch at the times specified by your supervisor, NOT when you think you need a break or when you “get around to it.” There will be no exceptions to this new rule! Felicia August Manager Billing and Accounting

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7.5 IM: Creating a Businesslike Tone

7.7 Microblogging: Tweeting to Customers

Your firm, which makes professional paint sprayers, uses IM extensively for internal communication and frequently for external communication with customers and suppliers. Several customers have recently forwarded copies of messages they’ve received from your staff, asking if you know how casually some employees are treating this important medium. You decide to revise parts of several messages to show your staff a more appropriate writing style. Rewrite these sentences, making up any information you need, to convey a more businesslike style and tone. (Look up the acronyms online if you need to.) a. IMHO, our quad turbo sprayer is best model 4U. b. No prob; happy2help! c. FWIW, I use the L400 myself & it rocks. d. Most cust see 20–30% reduct in fumes w/this sprayer—of course, YMMV.

Busy knitters can go through a lot of yarn in a hurry, so most keep a sharp eye out for sales. You’re on the marketing staff of Knitting-Warehouse, and you like to keep your loyal shoppers up to date with the latest deals. Visit the Knitting-Warehouse website at www.knitting-warehouse.com, select any on-sale product that catches your eye, and write a Twitter update that describes the product and the sale. Be sure to include a link back to the website so your Twitter followers can learn more. (Unless you are working on a private Twitter account that is accessible only by your instructor and your classmates, don’t actually send this Twitter update. Email it to your instructor instead.)

7.6 Blogging: Keeping Emotions under Control The members of the project team of which you are the leader have enthusiastically embraced blogging as a communication medium. Unfortunately, as emotions heat up during the project, some of the blog posts are getting too casual, too personal, and even sloppy. Because your boss and other managers around the company also read this project blog, you don’t want the team to look unprofessional in anyone’s eyes. Revise the following blog post so that it communicates in a more businesslike manner while retaining the informal, conversational tone of a blog. (Be sure to correct any spelling and punctuation mistakes you find as well.) Well, to the profound surprise of absolutely nobody, we are not going to be able meet the June 1 commitment to ship 100 operating tables to MedHelp Surgical Supply. (For those of you who have been living in a cave the past six month, we have been fighting to get our hands on enough high-grade chromium steel to meet our production schedule.) Sure enough, we got news, this morning that we will only get enough for 30 tables. Yes, we look like fools for not being able to follow through on promises we made to the customer, but no, this didn’t have to happpen. Six month’s ago, purchasing warned us about shrinking supplies and suggested we advance-buy as much as we would need for the next 12 months, or so. We naturally tried to followed their advice, but just as naturally were shot down by the bean counters at corporate who trotted out the policy about never buying more than three months worth of materials in advance. Of course, it’ll be us—not the bean counters who’ll take the flak when everybody starts asking why revenues are down next quarter and why MedHelp is talking to our friends at Crighton Manuf!!! Maybe, some day this company will get its head out of the sand and realize that we need to have some financial flexibility in order to compete.

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7.8 Podcasting: Streamlining Your Content You began recording a weekly podcast to share information with your large and far-flung staff. After a month, you ask for feedback from several of your subordinates, and you’re disappointed to learn that some people stopped listening to the podcast after the first couple weeks. Someone eventually admits that many staffers feel the recordings are too long and rambling, and the information they contain isn’t valuable enough to justify the time it takes to listen. You aren’t pleased, but you want to improve. An assistant transcribes the introduction to last week’s podcast so you can review it. You immediately see two problems. Revise the introduction based on what you’ve learned in this chapter. So there I am, having lunch with Anju Gill, who just joined and took over the Central sales region from Jackson Stroud. In walks our beloved CEO with Selma’s old boss at Uni-Plex; turns out they were finalizing a deal to co-brand our products and theirs and to set up a joint distribution program in all four domestic regions. Pretty funny, huh? Selma left Uni-Plex because she wanted to sell our products instead, and now she’s back selling her old stuff, too. Anyway, try to chat with her when you can; she knows the biz inside and out and probably can offer insight into just about any sales challenge you might be running up against. We’ll post more info on the cobrand deal next week; should be a boost for all of us. Other than those two news items, the other big news this week is the change in commission reporting. I’ll go into the details in a minute, but when you log onto the intranet, you’ll now see your sales results split out by product line and industry sector. Hope this helps you see where you’re doing well and where you might beef things up a bit. Oh yeah, I almost forgot the most important bit. Speaking of our beloved CEO, Thomas is going to be our guest of honour, so to speak, at the quarterly sales meeting next week and wants an update on how petroleum prices are affecting customer behaviour. Each district manager should be ready with a brief report. After I go through the commission reporting scheme, I’ll outline what you need to prepare.

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CASES

APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS TO CASES

Apply each step to the following cases, as assigned by your instructor.

1

Planning

Analyze the Situation Identify both your general purpose and your specific purpose. Clarify exactly what you want your audience to think, feel, or believe after receiving your message. Profile your primary audience, including their backgrounds, differences, similarities, and likely reactions to your message. Gather Information Identify the information your audience will need to receive, as well as other information you may need in order to craft an effective message. Select the Right Medium The medium is identified for each case here, but when on the job, make sure your medium is both acceptable to the audience and appropriate for the message. Organize the Information Define your main idea, limit your scope, choose a direct or indirect approach, and outline necessary support points and other evidence.

2

Adapt to Your Audience Show sensitivity to audience needs by using a “you” attitude, politeness, positive emphasis, and bias-free language. Understand how much credibility you already have—and how much you may need to establish. Project your company’s image by maintaining an appropriate style and tone. Consider cultural variations and the differing needs of internal and external audiences. Compose the Message For written messages, draft your message using clear but sensitive words, effective sentences, and coherent paragraphs. For podcasts, outline your message and draft speaking notes to ensure smooth recording; use plenty of previews, transitions, and reviews to help audiences follow along.

Social Networking SKILLS

1. Online Etiquette: Controlling Negative Blogging Employees who take pride in their work are a practically priceless resource for any business. However, pride can sometimes manifest itself in negative ways when employees come under criticism—and public criticism is a fact of life in social media. Imagine that your company has recently experienced a rash of product quality problems, and these problems have generated some unpleasant and occasionally unfair criticism on a variety of social media sites. Someone even set up a Facebook page specifically to give customers a place to vent their frustrations. You and your public relations team jump into action, responding to complaints with offers to provide replacement products and help customers who have been affected by the quality problems. Everything seemed to be going as well as could

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3

Writing

Completing

Revise the Message Evaluate content and review readability, then edit and rewrite for conciseness and clarity. Produce the Message For written messages, use effective design elements and suitable layout for a clean, professional appearance. For podcasts, record your messages using whatever equipment you have available (professional podcasts may require upgraded equipment). Proofread the Message Review for errors in layout, spelling, and mechanics. Listen to podcasts to check for recording problems. Distribute the Message Deliver your message using the chosen medium; make sure all documents and all relevant files are distributed successfully.

be expected, when you were checking a few industry blogs one evening and discovered that a couple of engineers in your company’s product design lab have been responding to complaints on their own. They identified themselves as company employees and defended their product design, blaming the company’s production department and even criticizing several customers for lacking the skills needed to use such a sophisticated product. Within a matter of minutes, you see their harsh comments being retweeted and reposted on multiple sites, only fuelling the fire of negative feedback against your firm. Needless to say, you are horrified.

Your task: You manage to reach the engineers by private message and tell them to stop posting messages, but you realize you have a serious training issue on your hands. Write a post for the internal company blog that advises employees on how to respond appropriately when they are representing the company online. Use your imagination to make up any details you need.

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Social Networking SKILLS

2. Based on My Experience: Analyzing Your Online Image Social media can be a great way to socialize during your student years, but employers are increasingly checking up on the online activities of potential hires to avoid bringing in employees who may reflect poorly on the company.

Your task: Team up with another student and review each other’s public presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, blogs, and any other website that an employer might check during the interview and recruiting process. Identify any photos, videos, messages, or other material that could raise a red flag when an employee is evaluating a job candidate. Write your teammate an email message that lists any risky material. Email SKILLS

3. Based on My Experience: Personal Branding You’ve been labouring all summer at an internship, learning how business is conducted. You’ve done work nobody else wanted to do, but that’s okay. Even the smallest tasks can make a good impression on your future résumé. This morning, your supervisor asks you to write a description of the job you’ve been doing. “Include everything, even the filing,” she suggests, “and address it to me in an email message.” She says a future boss might assign such a task prior to a performance review. “You can practise describing your work without exaggeration—or too much modesty,” she says, smiling.

Your task: Using good techniques for short messages and relying on your real-life work experience, write an email that will impress your supervisor. Make up any details you need. Email SKILLS    Portfolio BUILDER

4. Marketing and Sales Messages: Product Promotion One-quarter of all motor vehicle accidents that involve children under age 12 are side-impact crashes—and these crashes result in higher rates of injuries and fatalities than those with front or rear impacts.55

Your task: You work in the consumer information department at Britax, a leading manufacturer of car seats. Your manager has asked you to prepare an email message that can be sent out whenever parents request information about side-impact crashes and the safety features of Britax seats. Start by researching side-impact crashes at http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/ carseats/child-seat-side-impact-protection. Then review Britax product safety standards at https://us.britax.com/why-britax/ safety-standards/. Using these sources, write a three-paragraph message that explains the seriousness of side-impact crashes, describes how injuries and fatalities can be minimized in these crashes, and describes how Britax’s car seats are designed to help protect children in side-impact crashes.

Email SKILLS

5. Sensitive Email: Dealing with a Difficult Customer Many companies operate on the principle that the customer is always right, even when the customer isn’t right. They take any

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steps necessary to ensure happy customers, a lot of repeat sales, and a positive reputation among potential buyers. Overall, this is a smart and successful approach to business. However, most companies eventually encounter a nightmare customer who drains so much time, energy, and profits that the only sensible option is to refuse the customr’s business. For example, the nightmare customer might be someone who constantly berates you and your employees, repeatedly makes outlandish demands for refunds and discounts, or simply requires so much help that you not only lose money on this person but also no longer have enough time to help your other customers. “Firing” a customer is an unpleasant step that should be taken only in the most extreme cases and only after other remedies have been attempted (such as talking with the customer about the problem), but it is sometimes necessary for the well-being of your employees and your company.

Your task: If you are currently working or have held a job in the recent past, imagine that you’ve encountered just such a customer. If you don’t have job experience to call on, imagine that you work in a retail location somewhere around campus or in your neighbourhood. Identify the type of behaviour this imaginary customer exhibits and the reasons the behaviour can no longer be accepted. Write a brief email message to the customer to explain that you will no longer be able to accommodate him or her as a customer. Calmly explain why you have had to reach this difficult decision. Maintain a professional tone and keep your emotions in check.

Email SKILLS

6. Environmental Planning: Email Announcing a Committee Meeting You’ve probably worked as a volunteer on a committee or with team members for class assignments. You know how hard it is to get a diverse group of individuals together for a productive meeting. Maybe you’ve tried different locations—one member’s home or a table at the library. This time you’re going to suggest a local restaurant. The committee you’re leading is a volunteer group planning a trash-clearing project at an area park. Your meeting goal is to brainstorm ways to encourage public participation in this environmental event, to be held next Earth Day.

Your task: Develop a short email message telling committee members about the meeting. Include the time, date, duration, and location (choose a place you know). Mention the meeting goal to encourage attendance.

Email SKILLS

7. Sales Email: Promoting a New Lifestyle Magazine Consumers looking for beauty, health, and lifestyle magazines have an almost endless array of choices, but even in this crowded field, Logan Olson found her own niche. Olson, who was born with congenital heart disease, suffered a heart attack at age 16 that left her in a coma and caused serious brain damage. The active and outgoing teen had to relearn everything from sitting up to feeding herself. As she recovered, she looked for help and advice in conquering such daily challenges as finding fashionable clothes that

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were easier to put on and makeup that was easier to apply. Mainstream beauty magazines didn’t seem to offer any information for young women with disabilities, so she started her own magazine targeted at young adults living with disabilities. Olson had to overcome many challenges, but she never quit. In 2006, she launched her magazine to “offer readers reassurance that they are not alone, a feeling she longed for when she was recovering from surgery.”56

Your task: Logan Olson’s story is one of many inspirational testimonials featured in ABILITY Magazine (abilitymagazine. com), a bimonthly publication featuring health, disability, and human potential. Write a promotional email message to be sent to young adults with disabilities as well as families and friends who might like to give gift subscriptions, promoting the benefits of subscribing to ABILITY. You can learn more about ABILITY at https://abilitymagazine.com/home/about-us/.57

IM SKILLS

8. Developing Chat Service Templates: Educating Consumers about TV High-definition television can be a joy to watch—but, oh, what a pain to buy. The field is littered with competing technologies and arcane terminology that is meaningless to most consumers. Moreover, it’s nearly impossible to define one technical term without invoking two or three others, leaving consumers swimming in an alphanumeric soup of confusion. The manufacturers themselves can’t even agree on which of the 18 different digital TV formats truly qualify as “high definition.” As a sales support manager for Crutchfield, www.crutchfield.com, a leading U.S. online retailer of audio and video systems, you understand the frustration buyers feel; your staff is deluged daily by their questions.

Your task: To help your staff respond quickly to consumers who ask questions via Crutchfield’s online IM chat service, you are developing a set of “canned” responses to common questions. When a consumer asks one of these questions, a sales advisor can simply click on the ready-made answer. Start by writing concise, consumer-friendly definitions of the following terms: resolution, HDTV, 1080p, and HDMI. Explore the Learning Center on the Crutchfield website to learn more about these terms. Answers.com (www.answers.com) and CNET (www.cnet.com) are two other handy sources.58 IM SKILLS

9. Based on My Experience: Instant Messaging for Customer Support Instant messaging is frequently used in customer support situations where a customer needs help selecting, using, or troubleshooting a problem. In this activity, two two-person teams will use IM to simulate problem solving by helping classmates discuss important academic or life decisions. One team will be the “clients,” who are struggling with the decisions, and the other will be the “advisors,” who coach them toward solutions.

Your task: First choose a free IM/chat system such as Google Talk, Facebook Chat, or any other system on which you can communicate privately in real time. Now choose two decision-making scenarios from your school or personal lives, such as deciding on a major, choosing whether to work during

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the upcoming summer or attend class, figuring out where to live next year, or any other decision that you’re willing to have your group discuss later in front of the whole class. Choose decisions that are complicated enough to support an IM conversation lasting at least five minutes. Decide which team will be the advisors and which will be the clients and move the teams to separate locations (make sure you have Internet access). In each team, one person will be the communicator first, and the other will be the observer, monitoring how well the IM conversation progresses and making note of any confusion, inefficiencies, or other issues. When you’re set up in your separate locations, begin the IM exchange with the communicator from the client team asking the advisor for help with a decision. The advisor should ask probing questions to find out what the client really wants to gain from the decision and help him or her work through the various alternatives. Discuss the decision scenario for at least five minutes. The observers should take notes but should not be involved in the IM exchange in any way. After working through one of the decision scenarios, swap roles inside each team so that the observer becomes the communicator and vice versa. Now work through the second decision scenario. Afterward, meet as a full team after the role playing and compare notes about how well each conversation went, how well the technology supported the communicators’ needs, and what you might do differently in a business context to ensure smooth communication and customer satisfaction. Be prepared to discuss your observations and conclusions with the rest of the class.

Blogging SKILLS

10. Based on My Experience: Blogging about Study Abroad Studying abroad for a semester or a year can be a rewarding experience in many ways—improving your language skills, experiencing another culture, making contacts in the international business arena, and building your self-confidence.

Your task: Write a post for your class blog that describes your school’s study-abroad program and summarizes the steps involved in applying for international study. If your school doesn’t offer study-abroad opportunities, base your post on the program offered at another institution in your province.

Blogging SKILLS    Portfolio BUILDER

11. Blogging for GM: Promoting the Volt U.S. automakers haven’t had much good news to share lately. GM, in particular, has been going through a rough time, entering bankruptcy, shedding assets, and relying on bailouts from the U.S. and Canadian governments to stay in business. The news isn’t entirely bleak, however. Chevrolet, one of the brands in the GM automotive stable, has recently introduced the Volt, a gas/electric hybrid that might finally give drivers a viable alternative to the wildly popular Toyota Prius.

Your task: Working with a team assigned by your instructor, write a post for GM’s dealer-only blog that describes the new Volt and the benefits it offers car owners. Include at least

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one photo and one link to the Volt section of GM’s website. You can learn more about the Volt at GM’s website, www.gm.ca.

Blogging SKILLS

12. Blogging for Comic-Con: Pop Culture Rules! Comic-Con International is an annual convention that highlights a wide variety of pop culture and entertainment media, from comic books and collectibles to video games and movies. From its early start as a comic book convention that attracted several hundred fans and publishing industry insiders, Comic-Con has become a major international event with more than 125 000 attendees.

Your task: Several readers of your pop culture blog have been asking for your recommendation about visiting ComicCon in San Diego next summer. Write a two- or three-paragraph posting for your blog that explains what Comic-Con is and what attendees can expect to experience at the convention. Be sure to address your posting to fans, not industry insiders. You can learn more at www.comic-con.org.59

Microblogging SKILLS

13. Twitter Teaser: Promoting a Career Resource Twitter updates are a great way to alert people to helpful articles, videos, and other online resources.

Your task: Find an online resource (it can be a website quiz, a YouTube video, a PowerPoint presentation, a newspaper article, or anything else appropriate) that offers some great tips to help university and college students prepare for job interviews. Write a teaser of no more than 120 characters that hints at the benefits other students can get from this resource. If your class is set up with private Twitter accounts, use your private account to send your message. Otherwise, email it to your instructor. Be sure to include the URL; if you’re using a Twitter account, the system should shorten it to 20 characters to keep you within the 140-character limit.

you could just talk to some of these companies so your personality could shine through. Well, you’ve just gotten that opportunity. One of the companies that you’ve applied to has emailed you back, asking you to submit a two-minute podcast introducing yourself and explaining why you would be a good person to hire.

Your task: Identify a company that you’d like to work for after graduation and select a job that would be a good match for your skills and interests. Write a script for a two-minute podcast (roughly 250 words). Introduce yourself and the position you’re applying for, describe your background, and explain why you think you’re a good candidate for the job. Make up any details you need. If your instructor asks you to do so, record the podcast and submit the file. Podcasting SKILLS



Portfolio BUILDER

16. Based on My Experience: Suggestions for Improving Your College or University With any purchase decision, from a restaurant meal to a college or university education, recommendations from satisfied customers are often the strongest promotional messages.

Your task: Write a script for a one- to two-minute podcast (roughly 150 to 250 words) explaining why your university or college is a good place to get an education. Your audience is grade 11 and grade 12 (CEGEP in Quebec) students. You can choose to craft a general message, something that would be useful to all prospective students, or you can focus on a specific academic discipline, the athletic program, or some other important aspect of your college or university experience. Either way, make sure your introductory comments make it clear whether you are offering a general recommendation or a specific recommendation. If your instructor asks you to do so, record the podcast and submit the file electronically.

Microblogging SKILLS

14. Updates and Announcements: Flight Sale! JetBlue is known for its innovations in customer service and customer communication, including its pioneering use of the Twitter microblogging system. Nearly 2 million JetBlue fans and customers follow the company on Twitter to get updates on flight status during weather disruptions, facility upgrades, and other news.60

Your task: Write a message of no more than 120 characters that announces the limited-time availability of flights and travel packages—flights plus hotel rooms, for example—at JetBlue’s store on eBay. (Limiting your message to 120 characters allows room for a 20-character URL, which you don’t need to include in your message.) The key selling point is that travellers may be able to purchase flights they want at steep discounts. If your class is set up with private Twitter accounts, use your private account to send your message. Otherwise, email it to your instructor.

Podcasting SKILLS

15. Personal Branding: Introducing Yourself to a Potential Employer While writing the many letters and email messages that are part of the job search process, you find yourself wishing that

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Podcasting SKILLS

17. Podcasting Pitch: Training People to Sell Your Favourite Product What product do you own (or use regularly) that you can’t live without? It could be something as seemingly minor as a favourite pen or something as significant as a medical device that you literally can’t live without. Now imagine you’re a salesperson for this product; think about how you would sell it to potential buyers. How would you describe it and how would you explain the benefits of owning it? After you’ve thought about how you would present the product to others, imagine that you’ve been promoted to sales manager, and it is your job to train other people to sell the product.

Your task: Write the script for a brief podcast (200 to 300 words) that summarizes for your sales staff the most important points to convey about the product. Imagine that they’ll listen to your podcast while driving to a customer’s location or preparing for the day’s activity in a retail store (depending on the nature of the product). Be sure to give your staffers a concise overview message about the product and several key support points.

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8

Writing Routine and Positive Messages

LEARNING OBJECTIVES  After studying this chapter, you will be able to

1

Outline an effective strategy for writing routine requests

4

Explain how creating informative messages differs from responding to information requests

2

Describe an effective strategy for writing routine replies and positive messages

5

Describe the importance of goodwill messages and explain how to make them effective

3

Discuss the importance of knowing who is responsible when granting claims and requests for adjustment

ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT

MyLab Business Communication  Visit MyLab Business Communication to access a variety of online resources directly related to this chapter’s content.

INDIGO BOOKS AND MUSIC Becoming Canada’s Bookseller

ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo

www.chapters.indigo.ca

As Indigo’s founder and CEO (chief executive officer), Heather Reisman is the primary decision maker for her firm’s image and activities. Her goal is to create an environment where book lovers can enjoy “the best of a proprietor-run shop combined with the selection of a true emporium.” Indigo’s position in the Canadian book market is testimony to Reisman’s ability to communicate her vision clearly to Indigo executives, front-line staff, and customers.

Heather Reisman’s business is her passion. The CEO of Indigo Books and Music, Reisman created Indigo in 1996 as “the world’s first cultural department store,” where consumers can buy books, e-readers, DVDs, CDs, gift items, and fine stationery. At that time, her chief competitor was Chapters, Inc another superstore chain, which merged with Indigo in 2001, with Reisman becoming the controlling shareholder. Today, Indigo is Canada’s largest retail bookstore, with 89 largeformat stores under the Indigo and Chapters banners and 123 small-format stores, including Coles, Indigospirit, SmithBooks, and The Book Company. Reisman’s challenge is to nurture Canadian interest in books. A book lover herself, she highlights her “personal picks” on the website and in-store. Yet Indigo is intended to be more than retail outlets: Reisman envisions them as “cultural havens for book lovers to meet local, national, and international artists.” Online, customers can participate in a community of readers by posting and reading book reviews, viewing members’ book lists, and joining book clubs. They can also contribute to the Indigo Ideas platform on Facebook, as well as vote on suggestions for improving the business. Reisman’s company raises money for the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, which supplies new books and learning materials to high-needs elementary schools. Reisman sees literacy as a way to raise the self-esteem of young Canadians and involves customers in this mission by encouraging donations through the website or stores. Through another program, FUNdraisers, schools and groups can hold in-store student programs, with Indigo donating a portion of purchases made by invited guests.

210

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As you read this chapter, put yourself in Heather Reisman’s position. To maintain your business and social goals, you must send clear messages to customers and store managers, requesting both information and action. How can you

obtain the facts you need to make your decisions? How will you communicate your goals so Indigo can maintain its stature in consumers’ eyes?1

Strategy for Routine Requests Much of the vital communication between a company and its customers is about routine matters, from product operation hints and technical support to refunds and ordering glitches. These messages fall into two groups: requests for information or action from another party, and a variety of routine and positive messages. This chapter addresses these types of messages; Chapter 9 covers messages in which you convey negative information, and Chapter 10 addresses persuasive messages. Making requests is a routine part of business. In most cases, your audience will be prepared to comply, as long as you’re not being unreasonable or asking people to do something they would expect you to do yourself. By applying a clear strategy and tailoring your approach to each situation, you’ll be able to generate effective requests quickly. Like all business messages, routine requests have three parts: an opening, a body, and a close. Using the direct approach, open with your main idea, which is a clear statement of your request. Use the body to give details and justify your request. Then close by requesting specific action (see Figure 8–1). Keep your paragraphs short, and in each paragraph address only one issue. This helps your reader focus on what is important to you. Also, use no more than one bulleted or numbered list per message. An email or letter with too many bullets or numbers makes it unclear to the reader what is most important in the message.

1

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Outline an effective strategy for writing routine requests.

For routine requests and positive messages • State the request or main idea • Give necessary details • Close with a cordial request for specific action Take care that your direct approach doesn’t come across as abrupt or tactless.

STATING YOUR REQUEST UP FRONT Begin routine requests by placing your request first—up front is where it stands out and gets the most attention. Of course, getting right to the point should not be interpreted as a licence to be abrupt or tactless.

EXPLAINING AND JUSTIFYING YOUR REQUEST Use the body of your message to explain your initial request. Make the explanation a smooth and logical outgrowth of your opening remarks. If possible, point out how complying with the request could benefit the reader. For example, if you would like some assistance interpreting complex quality-control data, point

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Forestpath/Shutterstock

• Pay attention to tone. Even though you expect a favourable response, the tone of your initial request is important. Instead of demanding action (“Send me your latest catalogue”), soften your request with words such as please and I would appreciate. • Assume that your audience will comply. An impatient demand for rapid service isn’t necessary. You can generally make the assumption that your audience will comply with your request once the reason for it is clearly understood. • Be specific. State precisely what you want. For example, if you request the latest market data from your research department, ensure that you say whether you want a one-page summary or a hundred pages of raw data.

Online product ordering is simple, be it from large retailers or artisans who sell their products through commercial marketplaces such as etsy.com. You merely click the item and quantity, and your purchase is added to your electronic shopping cart, with shipping and taxes automatically calculated. But how do you phrase order messages to small businesses that don’t use online ordering? What medium do you select? How do you organize your message?

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212 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

HIGHLAND FARMS 410 Scenic Drive Lethbridge, Alberta  T1J 4B2

April 30, 2019 Mr. James Corrinda Village Feed and Hay 220 Mayor Magrath Dr. S. Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 2P7 Dear Mr. Corrinda:

Clearly state the main idea, the request, or the good news.

Include all the details necessary.

Close cordially and refer to the good news or state the specific action you desire. Sincerely,

Joseph Masterson Manager

Figure 8–1  Organizing Routine and Positive Messages

Using lists helps readers sort through multiple related items or multiple requests.

out how a better understanding of quality-control issues would improve customer satisfaction and ultimately lead to higher profits for the entire company. Whether you’re writing a formal letter or a simple instant message, you can use the body of your request to list a series of questions. This list of questions helps organize your message and helps your audience identify the information you need. Just keep in mind a few basics: • Ask the most important questions first. If cost is your main concern, you might begin with a question such as “What is the cost for shipping the merchandise by air versus truck?” Then ask more specific but related questions about, say, discounts for paying early. • Ask only relevant questions. To help expedite the response to your request, ask only those questions that are central to your main request. Doing so will generate an answer sooner and make better use of the other person’s time. • Deal with only one topic per question. If you have an unusual or complex request, break it down into specific, individual questions so the reader can address each one separately. Don’t put the burden of untangling a complicated request on your reader. This consideration not only shows respect for your audience’s time but also gets you a more accurate answer in less time.

Close request messages with • A request for some specific action • Information about how you can be reached • An expression of appreciation

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REQUESTING SPECIFIC ACTION IN A COURTEOUS CLOSE Close your message with three important elements: (1) a specific request, (2) information about how you can be reached (if it isn’t obvious), and (3) an expression of appreciation or goodwill. When you ask readers to perform a specific action, ask that they respond by a specific time, if appropriate (for example, “Please send

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CHAPTER 8  WRITING ROUTINE AND POSITIVE MESSAGES 213

the figures by May 5 so I can return first-quarter results to you before the May 20 conference.”). Plus, by including your phone number, email address, office hours, and other contact information, you help your readers respond easily. Conclude your message by sincerely expressing your goodwill and appreciation. However, don’t thank the reader “in advance” for cooperating. If the reader’s reply warrants a word of thanks, send it after you’ve received the reply. To review, see “Checklist: Writing Routine Requests.”

✓Checklist

Writing Routine Requests

A. State your request upfront. • Write in a polite, undemanding, personal tone. • Use the direct approach, since your audience will probably respond favourably. • Be specific and precise. B. Explain and justify your request. • Justify the request or explain its importance. • Explain any potential benefits of responding.

COMMUNICATING ACROSS CULTURES

C. Request specific action in a courteous close. • Make it easy to comply by including appropriate contact information. • Express your gratitude. • State clearly any important deadlines.

How Direct Is Too Direct?

Being direct is civil, considerate, and honest—or so say people in Canada and the United States. Others view that same directness as being abrupt, rude, and intrusive—even dishonest and offensive. Countries such as Mexico, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and the Philippines all tend to have high-context cultures (see discussion in Chapter 3). That is, the people in these countries depend on shared knowledge and inferred messages to communicate; they gather meaning more from context and less from direct statement. Offering a little constructive criticism may actually hurt your Japanese assistant’s dignity. In fact, in high-context cultures, avoid saying outright, “You are wrong.” You could cause the other person to lose face. When making requests, determine whether to use a direct or an implied message by considering audience attitudes toward destiny, time, authority, and logic: • Destiny. Do audience members believe they can control events themselves or do they see events as predetermined and uncontrollable? If you’re supervising employees who believe that fate controls a construction deadline, your crisp email message requesting them to stay on schedule may be hard for them to understand. It may even be insulting. • Time. Do audience members view time as exact, precise, and not to be wasted, or do they see time as relative, relaxed, and necessary for developing interpersonal relationships? If you see time as money and you get straight to business in your memo to your Mexican manager, your message may be overlooked in the confusion over your disregard for social propriety.

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• Break complex requests into individual questions that are limited to only one topic each.

• Authority. Do audience members conduct business more autocratically or more democratically? In Japan, rank and status are highly valued, so when communicating downward, you may need to be even more direct than you’re used to being in Canada. And when communicating upward, you may need to be much less direct than usual. • Logic. Do audience members pursue logic in a straight line, from point a to point b, or do they communicate in circular or spiral patterns of logic? If you organize a speech or letter in a straightforward and direct manner, your message may be considered illogical, unclear, and disorganized. You may want to decide not only how direct to be in written messages but also whether to write at all. Perhaps a phone call or a visit would be more appropriate. By finding out how much or how little a culture tends toward high-context communication, you’ll know whether to be direct or to rely on nuance when communicating with the people there. CAREER APPLICATIONS 1. Research a high-context culture such as Japan, Korea, or China, and write a one- or two-paragraph summary of how someone in that culture would go about requesting information. 2. When you write to someone in a high-context culture, would it be better to (a) make the request directly in the interest of clarity or (b) match your audience’s unfamiliar logic and make your request indirectly? Explain your answer.

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214 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

Common Examples of Routine Requests The types of routine requests are innumerable and range from asking favours to requesting credit. However, many of the routine messages that you’ll write will likely fall into a few main categories: asking for information and action, asking for recommendations, and making claims and requesting adjustments.

ASKING FOR INFORMATION AND ACTION When you need to know about something, to elicit an opinion from someone, or to request a simple action, you usually need only ask. In essence, simple requests say • What you want to know or what you want readers to do • Why you’re making the request • Why it may be in your readers’ interest to help you Routine requests can be handled with simple, straightforward messages, but more complicated requests can require additional justification and explanation.

If your reader is able to do what you want, such a straightforward request gets the job done quickly. Use the direct approach by opening with a clear statement of your reason for writing. However, do not waste the reader’s time by starting the request with “I am writing to you to…” This is obvious, and does not need to be stated. Keep the opening clear and concise. In the body, provide whatever explanation is needed to justify your request. Make sure you use more than one paragraph and order your thoughts around one central idea per paragraph. In some situations, readers might be unwilling to respond unless they understand how the request benefits them, so be sure to include this information in your explanation. You can assume some shared background when communicating about a routine matter to someone in the same company. Then close with a specific description of what you expect and include a deadline, if appropriate. Figure 8–2, an email request, asks district managers to fill out an attached information collection form. Although the request is not unusual and responding to it is part of the managers’ responsibility, Helene Clausen asks for their help in a courteous manner and points out the benefits of responding. In contrast to requests sent internally, those sent to people outside the organization usually adopt a more formal tone, such as the following example:

Dear Bioverse: Please provide additional information on distribution opportunities for your Healthy Ponds product line, as mentioned on your website. Enviro Domestic is a 20-year-old firm with a well-established design, retail, and service presence in the Ottawa area, and we believe your bioremediation products would make a compelling addition to our offerings.

The opening makes an overall request in polite question form (no question mark).

In particular, we would appreciate answers to the following questions:

The body specifies exactly what the writer wishes to know to assist the recipient in responding.

1. Do you offer exclusive regional distribution contracts? 2. Do you offer factory training for sales and service specialists? 3. Do you plan to expand beyond water bioremediation solutions into other landscaping products? Please let us hear from you by February 15.

The writer identifies an affiliation and reason for writing.

The close makes a polite request and gives a specific answer deadline.

A more complex request might require not only greater detail but also information on how responding will benefit the reader.

ASKING FOR RECOMMENDATIONS Always ask for permission before using someone as a reference.

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The need to inquire about people arises often in business. For example, before awarding credit, contracts, jobs, promotions, or scholarships, some companies ask applicants to supply references: a list of people who can vouch for their

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CHAPTER 8  WRITING ROUTINE AND POSITIVE MESSAGES 215

1

2

Planning

#PCN[\GVJG5KVWCVKQP 8GTKH[VJCVVJGRWTRQUGKUVQTGSWGUV KPHQTOCVKQPHTQOEQORCP[OCPCIGTU )CVJGT+PHQTOCVKQP )CVJGTCEEWTCVGEQORNGVG KPHQTOCVKQPCDQWVNQECNEQORGVKVKXG VJTGCVU 5GNGEVVJG4KIJV/GFKWO %JQQUGGOCKNHQTVJKUKPVGTPCN OGUUCIGYJKEJCNUQCNNQYUVJG CVVCEJOGPVQHC9QTFFQEWOGPVVQ EQNNGEVVJGKPHQTOCVKQP 1TICPK\GVJG+PHQTOCVKQP %NCTKH[VJCVVJGOCKPKFGCKU EQNNGEVKPIKPHQTOCVKQPVJCVYKNNNGCF VQCDGVVGTEQORGVKVKXGUVTCVGI[ YJKEJYKNNKPVWTPJGNRVJGXCTKQWU FKUVTKEVOCPCIGTU

The informative subject line alerts the audience to an important request. The attachment is, in fact, included, as stated in the email. The body acknowledges that responding to the request will require some work, but the result will benefit everyone.

Writing

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3

Completing

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*GNNQGXGT[QPG #VNCUVYGGMoUQHHUKVGOGGVKPI%JCTNGUCUMGFOGVQEQQTFKPCVGQWTEQORCP[YKFGEQORGVKVKXGVJTGCVCPCN[UKURTQLGEV+PQTFGTVQ FGXKUGCEQORTGJGPUKXGUVTCVGIKETGURQPUGVJCVKUUGPUKVKXGVQNQECNOCTMGVXCTKCVKQPUYGPGGF[QWTKPFKXKFWCNKPUKIJVUCPF CFXKEG

The opening explains the context of the message, then gets to the point. Clausen acknowledges the request.

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The body explains the benefit of responding to the request. The close provides a clear deadline, then concludes in a courteous manner.

YYYGCTN[GFEC

Figure 8–2  Effective Message Requesting Action Courtesy: Mozilla Foundation

ability, skills, integrity, character, and fitness for the job. Before you volunteer someone’s name as a reference, ask permission to do so. Some people won’t let you use their names, perhaps because they don’t know enough about you to feel comfortable writing a letter or because they have a policy of not providing recommendations.

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216 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

Refresh the memory of any potential references you haven’t been in touch with for a while.

When making a claim • Explain the problem and give details • Provide backup information • Request specific action

Sender’s address and date only are at the top.

Because requests for recommendations and references are routine, you can organize your inquiry using the direct approach. Open your message by clearly stating why the recommendation is required (if it’s not for a job, be sure to explain what it is for) and that you would like your reader to write the letter. If you haven’t had contact with the person for some time, use the opening to recall the nature of the relationship you had, the dates of association, and any special events that might bring a clear, favourable picture of you to mind. Consider including an updated résumé if you’ve had significant career advancement since your last contact. Close your message with an expression of appreciation and the full name and address of the person to whom the letter should be sent. When asking for an immediate recommendation, you should also mention the deadline. Always be sure to enclose a stamped, preaddressed envelope, as a convenience to the other party. The letter in Figure 8–3 covers all these points and adds important information about some qualifications that might be of special interest to her potential employer.

MAKING CLAIMS AND REQUESTING ADJUSTMENTS If you’re dissatisfied with a company’s product or service, you can opt to make a claim (a formal complaint) or request an adjustment (a settlement of a claim).

12 King Street W. Ingersoll, Ontario N5C 2S3 March 15, 2019 Professor Lyndon Kenton Rickard School of Business 901 Richmond Street S. University of Western Ontario London, Ontario N6A 4B8 Dear Professor Kenton: I recently interviewed with Strategic Investments and have been called for a second interview for their Analyst Training Program (ATP). They have requested at least one recommendation from a professor, and I immediately thought of you. May I have a letter of recommendation from you?

Rioux includes information near the opening to refresh her professor’ memory.

She provides a deadline for response and includes information about the person who is expecting the recommendation.

As you may recall, I took BUS 485, Financial Analysis, from you in the fall of 2017. I enjoyed the class and finished the term with an “A.” Professor Kenton, your comments on assertiveness and cold-calling impressed me beyond the scope of the actual course material. In fact, taking your course helped me decide on a future as a financial analyst. My enclosed résumé includes all my relevant work experience and volunteer activities. I would also like to add that I’ve handled the financial planning for our family since my father passed away several years ago. Although I initially learned by trial and error, I have increasingly applied my business training in deciding what stocks or bonds to trade. This, I believe, has given me a practical edge over others who may be applying for the same job. If possible, Ms. Blackmon in Human Resources needs to receive your letter by March 30. For your convenience, I’ve enclosed a preaddressed, stamped envelope. I appreciate your time and effort in writing this letter of recommendation for me. It will be great to put my education to work, and I’ll keep you informed of my progress. Sincerely,

The opening states the purpose of the letter and makes the request, assuming that the reader will want to comply with the request. The body refers to the enclosed résumé and mentions experience that could set the applicant apart from other candidates— information the professor could use in writing the recommendation.

The close mentions the preaddressed, stamped envelope to encourage a timely response.

Joanne Rioux Enclosure

Figure 8–3  Effective Letter Requesting a Recommendation

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CHAPTER 8  WRITING ROUTINE AND POSITIVE MESSAGES 217

In either case, it’s important to maintain a professional tone in all your communication, no matter how angry or frustrated you might be. Keeping your cool will help you get the situation resolved sooner. In most cases, and especially in your first letter, assume that a fair adjustment will be made, and follow the plan for direct requests. Open with a straightforward statement of the problem. In the body, give a complete, specific explanation of the detail; provide any information an adjuster would need to verify your complaint. In your close, politely request specific action or convey a sincere desire to find a solution. If appropriate, suggest that the business relationship will continue if the problem is solved satisfactorily. Be prepared to back up your claim with invoices, sales receipts, cancelled cheques, dated correspondence, and any other relevant documents. Send copies and keep the originals for your files. If the remedy is obvious, tell your reader exactly what you expect from the company, such as exchanging incorrectly shipped merchandise for the right item or issuing a refund if the item is out of stock. In some cases you might ask the reader to resolve a problem. However, if you’re uncertain about the precise nature of the trouble, you could ask the company to make an assessment, then advise you on how the situation could be fixed. Supply your contact information so the company can discuss the situation with you if necessary. Compare the tone of the draft version in Figure 8–4 with the revised version. If you were the person receiving the complaint, which version would you respond to more favourably? A rational, clear, and courteous approach is best for any routine request. To review the tasks involved in making claims and requesting adjustments, see “Checklist: Making Claims and Requesting Adjustments.”

✓Checklist

Be prepared to document any claim you make with a company. Send copies and keep the original documents.

Making Claims and Requesting Adjustments

• Maintain a professional tone, even if you’re extremely frustrated. • Open with a straightforward statement of the problem. • Provide specific details in the body. • Present facts honestly and clearly.

• Politely summarize desired action in the closing. • Clearly state what you expect as a fair settlement, or ask the reader to propose a fair adjustment. • Explain the benefits of complying with the request, such as your continued patronage.

Strategy for Routine Replies and Positive Messages Just as you’ll make numerous requests for information and action throughout your career, you’ll also respond to similar requests from other people. You’ll have several goals for such messages: to communicate the information or the good news, to answer all questions, to provide all required details, and to leave your reader with a good impression of you and your firm. Because readers receiving these messages will generally be interested in what you have to say, you can usually use the direct approach. Place your main idea (the positive reply or the good news) in the opening, use the body to explain all the relevant details, and close cordially—perhaps highlighting a benefit to your reader.

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2

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe an effective strategy for writing routine replies and positive messages.

Use a direct approach for positive messages.

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218 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

ve

cti e ff Ine

The opening has an emotional tone and burdens the reader with too many details too quickly.

The body continues with the emotional tone and includes unhelpful statements that will only put the reader on the defensive. The close includes irrelevant information and fails to make a clear request.

ve

cti e ff E

The opening clearly and calmly states the problem.

Covington provides details in the body so the reader can understand why she believes that a problem exists.

The body presents details clearly, concisely, and completely.

She offers a helpful suggestion for resolving the problem.

The close requests specific action and provides contact information to make responding easy.

Figure 8–4  Effective and Ineffective Versions of a Claim Letter

STARTING WITH THE MAIN IDEA By opening your routine and positive messages with the main idea or good news, you’re preparing your audience for the detail that follows. Make your opening clear and concise. Although the following introductory statements make the same point, one is cluttered with unnecessary information that buries the purpose and fails to focus on the reader, whereas the other is brief and to the point:

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Instead of This

Use This

I am pleased to inform you that after careful consideration of a diverse and talented pool of applicants, each of whom did a thorough job of analyzing Bild Pharmaceuticals’ training needs, we have selected your bid.

Your bid to provide public speaking and presentation training to the sales staff has been accepted by Bild Pharmaceuticals.

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CHAPTER 8  WRITING ROUTINE AND POSITIVE MESSAGES 219

The best way to write a clear opening is to have a clear idea of what you want to say. Before you put one word on paper, ask yourself, “What is the single most important message I have for the audience?”

Use the body to explain your point completely so that your audience won’t be confused or doubtful about your meaning. As you provide the details, maintain the supportive tone established in the opening. This tone is easy to continue when your message is entirely positive, as in this example:

Redsnapper/Alamy Stock Photo

PROVIDING NECESSARY DETAILS AND EXPLANATION

Customer relationship management (CRM) software stores a variety of customer information—addresses and phone numbers, previous orders, personal facts such as birthdates, hobbies, and interests. This information helps companies generate routine, good-news, and goodwill messages such as new product announcements to selected customers. While CRM software helps businesses retain customers and raise profits, does it also pose the danger of violating one of our most prized possessions, our privacy?

Your educational background and internship have impressed us, and we believe you would be a valuable addition to Green Valley Properties. As discussed during your interview, your salary will be $4600 per month plus benefits. Please plan to meet with our benefits manager, Paula Sanchez, at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, March 23. She will assist you with all the paperwork necessary to tailor our benefit package to your family situation. She will also arrange various orientation activities to help you fit in with our company.

However, if your routine message is mixed and must convey mildly disappointing information, put the negative portion of your message into as favourable a context as possible: Instead of This

Use This

No, we no longer carry the Sportsgirl line of sweaters.

The new Olympic line has replaced the Sportsgirl sweaters that you asked about. Olympic features a wider range of colours and sizes and more contemporary styling.

Try to embed any negative information in a positive context.

In this example, the more complete description is less negative and emphasizes how the audience can benefit from the change. Be careful, though: you can use negative information in this type of message only if you’re reasonably sure the audience will respond positively. Otherwise, use the indirect approach (discussed in Chapter 9). If you are communicating to customers, you might also want to use the body of your message to assure the customer of the wisdom of his or her purchase selection (without being condescending or self-congratulatory). Using such favourable comments, often know as resale, is a good way to build customer relationships. These comments are commonly included in acknowledgments of orders and other routine announcements to customers, and they are most effective when they are relatively short and specific: The zipper on the carrying case you purchased is double-stitched and guaranteed for the life of the product. The KitchenAid mixer you ordered is our best-selling model. It should meet your cooking needs for many years.

ENDING WITH A COURTEOUS CLOSE Your message is most likely to succeed if your readers are left feeling that you have their best interests in mind. You can accomplish this task either by highlighting

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Make sure that the audience understands what to do next and how that action will benefit them.

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220 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

a benefit to the audience or by expressing appreciation or goodwill. If follow-up action is required, clearly state who will do what next. See “Checklist: Writing Routine Replies and Positive Messages” to review the primary tasks involved in this type of business message.

✓Checklist

Writing Routine Replies and Positive Messages

A. Start with the main idea. • Be clear and concise. • Identify the single most important message before you start writing.

• Embed negative statements in positive contexts or balance them with positive alternatives. • Talk favourably about the choices the customer has made.

B. Provide necessary details and explanation. • Explain your point completely to eliminate any confusion or lingering doubts. • Maintain a supportive tone throughout.

C. End with a courteous close. • Let your readers know that you have their personal well-being in mind. • Tell readers how to proceed, if further action is required, and encourage them to act promptly.

Common Examples of Routine Replies and Positive Messages As with routine requests, you’ll encounter the need for a wide variety of routine replies and positive messages. Most routine and positive messages fall into six main categories: answers to requests for information and action, grants of claims and requests for adjustment, recommendations, informative messages, goodnews announcements, and goodwill messages.

ANSWERING REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION AND ACTION Every professional answers requests for information and action from time to time. If the response to a request is a simple yes or some other straightforward information, the direct approach is appropriate. A prompt, gracious, and thorough response will positively influence how people think about you and the organization you represent. Figure 8–5 shows a quick and courteous exchange typical of instant messaging (IM) communication in such areas as customer service and technical support. The agent (Janice) solves the problem quickly and presents a positive image of the company. When you’re answering requests and a potential sale is involved, you have three main goals: (1) to respond to the inquiry and answer all questions, (2) to leave your reader with a good impression of you and your firm, and (3) to encourage the future sale. The following message meets all three objectives: Here is the brochure “Entertainment Unlimited” that you requested. This booklet describes the vast array of entertainment options available to you with an Ocean Satellite Device (OSD). On page 12 you’ll find a list of the 338 channels that the OSD brings into your home. You’ll have access to movies, sports, and music channels; 24-hour news channels; local channels; and all the major television networks. OSD gives you a clearer picture and more precise sound than those old-fashioned dishes that took up most of your yard—and OSD uses only a small dish that mounts easily on your roof. More music, more cartoons, more experts, more news, and more sports are available to you with OSD than with any other cable or satellite connection in this region. It’s all there, right at your fingertips.

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Figure 8–5  Effective Instant Messaging Response to Information Request

Just call us at 1-800-555-4331, and an OSD representative will come to your home to answer your questions. You’ll love the programming and the low monthly cost. Call us today!

GRANTING CLAIMS AND REQUESTS FOR ADJUSTMENT Even the best-run companies make mistakes, from shipping the wrong order to billing a customer’s credit card inaccurately. In other cases, the customer or a third party might be responsible for the mistake, such as misusing a product or damaging it in shipment. Each of these events represents a turning point in your relationship with your customer. If you handle the situation well, your customer will likely be even more loyal than before because you’ve proven that you’re serious about customer satisfaction. However, if a customer believes that you mishandled a complaint, you’ll make the situation even worse. Dissatisfied customers often take their business elsewhere without notice and tell numerous friends and colleagues about the negative experience. A transaction that might be worth only a few dollars by itself could cost you many times that amount in lost business. In other words, every mistake is an opportunity to improve a relationship. Few people go to the trouble of requesting an adjustment unless they actually have a problem, so most businesses start from the assumption that the customer is correct. From there, your response to the complaint depends on both your

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3

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Discuss the importance of knowing who is responsible when granting claims and requests for adjustment.

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222 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

company’s policies for resolving such issues and your assessment of whether the company, the customer, or some third party is at fault. RESPONDING TO A CLAIM WHEN YOUR COMPANY IS AT FAULT  Whenever you

communicate about a mistake your company has made, do so carefully. Before you respond, ensure that you know your company’s policies, which might even dictate specific legal and financial steps to be taken. For serious problems that go beyond routine errors, your company should have a crisis management plan that outlines communication steps both inside and outside the organization (see Chapter 9). Most routine responses should take your company’s specific policies into account and address the following points: • Acknowledge receipt of the customer’s claim or complaint. Even if you can’t solve the problem immediately, at least let the other party know that somebody is listening. • Take (or assign) personal responsibility for setting matters straight. Customers want to know that someone is listening and responding. • Sympathize with the customer’s inconvenience or frustration. Letting the customer see that you’re on his or her side helps defuse the emotional element of the situation. • Explain precisely how you have resolved, or plan to resolve, the situation. If you can respond exactly as the customer requested, be sure to communicate that. If you can’t, explain why. • Take steps to repair the relationship. Keeping your existing customers is almost always less expensive than acquiring new customers, so look for ways to mend the relationship and encourage future business. • Follow up to verify that your response was correct. Follow-up not only helps improve customer service but also gives you another opportunity to show how much you care about your customer. Maintain a sincere, professional tone when responding to a complaint.

In addition to these positive steps, maintain a professional demeanour. Don’t blame anyone in your organization by name; don’t make exaggerated, insincere apologies; don’t imply that the customer is at fault; and don’t promise more than you can deliver. As with requests for information or action, companies often create customizable templates for granting claims and requests for adjustment. In the following example, a large mail-order clothing company created a form letter to respond to customers who complain that they haven’t received exactly what was ordered:

Your letter concerning your recent Ross River order has been forwarded to our director of order fulfillment. Your complete satisfaction is our goal, and a customer service representative will contact you within 48 hours to assist with the issues raised in your letter. In the meantime, please accept the enclosed $10 gift certificate as a token of our appreciation for your business. Whether you’re skiing or driving a snowmobile, Ross River Gear offers you the best protection available from wind, snow, and cold—and Ross River has been taking care of customers’ outdoor needs for over 27 years. We appreciate the time you took to write to us. Your input helps us better serve you and all our customers.

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The opening acknowledges receipt of the customer’s communication. The body explains what will happen next and when, without making promises the writer can’t keep. The body takes steps to repair the relationship and ensure continued business. The close states the company’s concern for all its customers.

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In contrast, a response letter written as a personal answer to a unique claim would open with a clear statement of the good news: the settling of the claim according to the customer’s request. The following is a more personal response from Ross River Gear:

Here is your heather-blue wool-and-mohair sweater (size large) to replace the one returned to us with a defect in the knitting. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to correct this situation. Customers’ needs have come first at Ross River Gear for 27 years. I’ve enclosed our newest catalogue and a $10 gift certificate that’s good toward any purchase from it. Whether you are skiing or driving a snowmobile, Ross River Gear offers you the best protection available from wind, snow, and cold. Please let us know how we may continue to serve you and your sporting needs.

RESPONDING TO A CLAIM WHEN THE CUSTOMER IS AT FAULT Communica-

tion about a claim is a delicate matter when the customer is clearly at fault. If you refuse the claim, you may lose your customer—as well as many of the customer’s friends and colleagues, who will hear only one side of the dispute. You must weigh the cost of making the adjustment against the cost of losing future business from one or more customers. Some companies have strict guidelines for responding to such claims, whereas others give individual employees and managers some leeway in making case-by-case decisions. If you choose to grant the claim, you can open with the good news, being sure to specify exactly what you’re agreeing to do, such as replacing the merchandise or refunding the purchase price. The body of the message is tricky because you want to discourage such claims in the future by steering the customer in the right direction. For example, customers sometimes misuse products or fail to follow the terms of service agreements, such as forgetting to cancel hotel reservations at least 24 hours in advance and thereby incurring the cost of one night’s stay. Even if you do grant a particular claim, you don’t want to imply that you will grant similar claims in the future. The challenge is to diplomatically remind the customer of proper usage or procedures without being condescending (“Perhaps you failed to read the instructions carefully”) or preachy (“You should know that wool shrinks in hot water”). Close in a courteous manner that expresses your appreciation for the customer’s business (Figure 8–6 educates a customer about how to treat his in-line skates).

To grant a claim when the customer is at fault, try to discourage future mistakes without insulting the customer.

RESPONDING TO A CLAIM WHEN A THIRD PARTY IS AT FAULT  Sometimes nei-

ther your firm nor your customer is at fault. For example, ordering a DVD from Chapters.Indigo.ca involves not only the company but also a delivery service such as a private courier or Canada Post, the manufacturer of the DVD, a credit card issuer, and a company that processes credit card transactions. Any one of these other partners might be at fault, but the customer is likely to blame Chapters.Indigo.ca, since that is the entity primarily responsible for the transaction. No general scheme applies to every case involving a third party, so evaluate the situation carefully and know your company’s policies before responding. For instance, an online retailer and the companies that manufacture its merchandise might have an agreement which specifies that the manufacturers automatically handle all complaints about product quality. However,

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When a third party is at fault, your response depends on your company’s agreements with that organization.

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224 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

1

2

Planning

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The opening acknowledges the customer’s message, keeps the tone positive by avoiding words such as mistake or failure, and conveys the good news right away.

The body explains the problem without blaming the customer by avoiding the pronoun you and by suggesting ways to avoid future problems.

Parker subtly promotes a more appropriate product for the customer.

The close gives the reader a glimpse into the corporate culture and encourages continued correspondence.

She closes on a positive note that conveys an attitude of excellent customer service.

Figure 8–6  Responding to a Claim When the Buyer Is at Fault

regardless of who eventually resolves the problem, if customers contact you, you need to respond with messages that explain how the problem will be solved. Pointing fingers is unproductive and unprofessional; resolving the situation is the only issue customers care about. See “Checklist: Granting Claims and Adjustment Requests” to review the tasks involved in these kinds of business messages.

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CHAPTER 8  WRITING ROUTINE AND POSITIVE MESSAGES 225

✓Checklist

Granting Claims and Adjustment Requests

A. Responding when your company is at fault • Be aware of your company’s policies in such cases before you respond. • Refer to the company’s crisis management plan for serious situations. • Start by acknowledging receipt of the claim or complaint. • Take or assign personal responsibility for resolving the situation. • Sympathize with the customer’s frustration. • Explain how you have resolved the situation (or plan to). • Take steps to repair the customer relationship. • Verify your response with the customer and keep the lines of communication open.

B. Responding when the customer is at fault • Weigh the cost of complying with or refusing the request. • Open with the good news if you choose to comply. • Use the body of the message respectfully to educate the customer about steps needed to avoid a similar outcome in the future. • Close with an appreciation for the customer’s business. C. Responding when a third party is at fault • Evaluate the situation and review your company’s policies before responding. • Avoid placing blame; focus on the solution. • Regardless of who is responsible for resolving the situation, let the customer know what will happen to resolve the problem.

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

“Most professors have contact with hundreds of students a year.…

Thus it is difficult to remember the specific accomplishments of each individual. Provide a résumé with each request, plus any other information that would be helpful.



Julie K. Henderson, APR, accredited public relations professional

PROVIDING RECOMMENDATIONS When writing a letter of recommendation, your goal is to convince readers that the person being recommended has the characteristics necessary for the job, project assignment, or other objective the person is seeking. A successful recommendation letter contains a number of relevant details (see Figure 8–7): • The candidate’s full name • The position or other objective the candidate is seeking • The nature of your relationship with the candidate • An indication of whether you’re answering a request from the person or taking the initiative to write • Facts and evidence relevant to the candidate and the opportunity • A comparison of this candidate’s potential with that of peers, if available (for example, “Ms. Jonasson consistently ranked in the top 10 percent of her class.”) • Your overall evaluation of the candidate’s suitability for the opportunity As surprising as this might sound, the most difficult recommendation letters to write are often those for truly outstanding candidates. Your audience will have trouble believing uninterrupted praise for someone’s talents and accomplishments. To enhance your credibility—and the candidate’s—illustrate your general points with specific examples that point out the candidate’s abilities and fitness for the job opening. Writing a recommendation letter can be a complex legal matter, so be sure to check your company’s policies and human resources department before writing a recommendation.2 Also, keep in mind that every time you write a recommendation, you’re putting your own reputation on the line. If the person’s shortcomings are so pronounced that you don’t think he or she is a good fit for the job,

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Recommendation letters are vulnerable to legal complications, so consult with your company’s legal department before writing one.

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226 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

AC Communications 4500 Athabasca Way Vaughan, ON L4N 0A0 905-555-2020 November 15, 2020

Ms. Claire Tremblay Director of Operations McNally and Associates, Inc. 80 Royal Crest Drive Markham, ON L3R 9X6 Dear Ms. Tremblay:

Chin specifies the duration and nature of the relationship in the body to give weight to the evaluation.

I am pleased to recommend John Naidu for the marketing position at McNally and Associates. Mr. Naidu has worked with AC Communications as an intern for the past two summers while working toward his degree in marketing and advertising. His duties included customer correspondence, Web content updates, and direct mail campaign planning. As his supervisor, in addition to knowing his work here, I also know that Mr. Naidu has served as secretary for the International Business Association at Memorial University. He tutored other international students in the university’s writing centre. His fluency in three languages (English, French, and Hindi) and thorough knowledge of other cultures will make him an immediate contributor to your international operation. Mr. Naidu is a thoughtful and careful professional who will not hesitate to contribute ideas when invited to do so. In addition, because Mr. Naidu learns quickly, he will learn your company’s routine with ease.

Chin closes by inviting the reader to discuss the candidate further.

Mr. Naidu will make an excellent addition to your staff at McNally and Associates. If I can provide any additional information, please call or fax me at the numbers above. If you prefer to communicate by email, my address is [email protected]. Sincerely,

The opening clearly states the candidate’s full name and the main point of the letter.

The body continues with specific examples to support the writer’s positive evaluation.

Chin begins the close by summarizing the supportive evaluation.

Gretta Chin Vice President, Business Development

Figure 8–7  Effective Recommendation Letter

the only choice is to not write the letter at all. Unless your relationship with the person warrants an explanation, simply suggest that someone else might be in a better position to provide a recommendation.

SHARING ROUTINE INFORMATION 4

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain how creating informative messages differs from responding to information requests.

When writing informative messages • State the purpose at the beginning and briefly mention the nature of the information you are providing • Provide the necessary details • End with a courteous close

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All companies send routine informative messages, such as project updates and policy statements. For example, you may need to inform employees of organizational changes or tell customers about new shipping and return policies. Use the opening of informative messages to state the purpose (to inform) and briefly mention the nature of the information you are providing. Unlike the replies discussed earlier, such routine messages are not solicited by your reader, so make it clear up front why the reader is receiving this particular message. In the body, provide the necessary details and end your message with a courteous close. Most routine communications are neutral. That is, they stimulate neither a positive nor a negative response from readers. For example, when you send departmental meeting announcements and reminder notices, you’ll generally

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receive a neutral response from your readers (unless the purpose of the meeting is unwelcome). Simply present the factual information in the body of the message, and don’t worry about the reader’s attitude toward the information. Some informative messages may require additional care. For example, policy statements or procedural changes may be good news for a company, perhaps by saving money. However, it may not be obvious to employees that such savings may make available additional employee resources or even pay raises. In instances where the reader may not initially view the information positively, use the body of the message to highlight the potential benefits from the reader’s perspective. (For situations in which negative news will have a profound effect on the recipients, consider the indirect techniques discussed in Chapter 9.)

ANNOUNCING GOOD NEWS To develop and maintain good relationships, smart companies recognize that it’s good business to advertise positive developments. These can include opening new facilities, appointing a new executive, introducing new products or services, or sponsoring community events. Because good news is always welcome, use the direct approach. Writing to a successful job applicant is one of the most pleasant good-news messages you might have the opportunity to write. The following example uses the direct approach and provides information that the recipient needs:

The opening announces news in a friendly, welcoming tone.

Welcome to Lake Valley Rehabilitation Centre. A number of excellent candidates were interviewed, but your educational background and recent experience at Memorial Hospital make you the best person for the position of medical records coordinator.

The body explains all necessary details.

As we discussed, your salary is $38 600 a year. We would like you to begin on Monday, February 15. Please come to my office at 9 A.M. I will give you an in-depth orientation to Lake Valley and discuss the various company benefits available to you. You can also sign all the necessary employment documents.

The body and closing explain the first day’s routine to ease the new employee’s uncertainty.

After lunch, Vanessa Jackson will take you to the medical records department and help you settle into your new responsibilities at Lake Valley Rehabilitation Centre. I look forward to seeing you first thing on February 15.

Although messages such as these are pleasant to write, they require careful planning and evaluation to avoid legal troubles. For example, messages that imply lifetime employment or otherwise make promises about the length or conditions of employment can be interpreted as legally binding contracts, even if you never intended to make such promises. Similarly, downplaying potentially negative news (such as rumours of a takeover) that turns out to affect the hired person in a negative way can be judged as fraud. Consequently, experts advise that a company’s legal staff either scrutinize each offer letter or create standardized content to use in such letters.3 Good-news announcements are usually communicated via a letter or a news release, also known as a press release, a specialized document used to share relevant information with the local or national news media. (News releases are also used to announce negative news, such as plant closings.) In most companies, news releases are usually prepared (or at least supervised) by specially trained writers in the public relations department (see Figure 8–8). The content follows

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Job-offer letters should be reviewed by legal experts familiar with employment law because they can be viewed as legally binding contracts.

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228 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

News releases A news release may include a sub-headline to add detail to the main headline. The first paragraph focuses on one subject only and avoids unrelated news.

Paragraphs are short.

Bell's $500,000 donation improves access to mental health therapy Concordia's Applied Psychology Centre and Centre for Clinical Research in Health receive major gift from Bell Let's Talk mental health initiative to enhance treatment services MONTREAL, Feb. 6, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - Treatment for anxiety, depression and mood disorders — mental health problems that affect one in five Canadians — is now more accessible to Montreal-area residents, thanks to the Bell Let's Talk mental health initiative. As part of this multi-year charitable program, Bell has generously given $500,000 to Concordia University's Department of Psychology to subsidize therapy and assessment at the university's Applied Psychology Centre and Centre for Clinical Research in Health. "Bell's gift will have an immediate beneficial impact on Concordia's psychology program and its capacity to serve our community," says Concordia President Alan Shepard. "With Bell's support, our researchers can progress further in the study and treatment of mental health problems, and this reinforces our everyday connection to the local community."

A quotation adds information and adds variety to the writing style of the news release.

Bell's donation will subsidize therapeutic services for those individuals who need help to pay for treatment. Clients can either be referred by doctors and clinics throughout the Montreal area or refer themselves. The psychological services they receive at the Applied Psychology Centre benefit from advances in Concordia-based clinical and health research. Martine Turcotte, Bell's Vice Chair of Québec, says the Bell Let's Talk mental health initiative — anchored by Bell Let's Talk Day on February 12 — is helping make a real difference in people's lives. "With the $50-million Bell Let's Talk initiative, Bell and its 17,000 Québec employees are firmly engaged in our commitment to de-stigmatize mental illness and improve access to mental health care," she says. "Supporting Concordia's Applied Psychology Centre and Centre for Clinical Research in Health is a concrete action the Bell team has taken to help people recover from mental illness, while at the same time contributing to research and education that advances treatment." "This donation from Bell helps people in the community through work conducted at Concordia," says Adam Radomsky, director of the Centre for Clinical Research in Health and a professor in Concordia's Department of Psychology. "Support from Bell allows our PhD students to gain clinical experience and enhances our ability to provide much needed evidence-based psychological services that improve people's mental health." Bell Let's Talk Day is February 12: For every text message sent and every long distance call made by Bell and Bell Aliant customers on February 12, every tweet using #BellLetsTalk, and every Facebook share of our Bell Let's Talk message, Bell will donate 5 cents more to programs dedicated to mental health (regular long distance and text charges apply). Last year's Bell Let's Talk Day raised $3,926,014.20 in additional funding for mental health initiatives across the country. About Bell: Bell is Canada's largest communications company, providing consumers and business with solutions to all their communications needs: Bell Mobility wireless, high-speed Bell Internet, Bell Satellite TV and Bell Fibe TV, Bell Home Phone local and long distance, and Bell Business Markets IP-broadband and information and communications technology (ICT) services. Bell Media is Canada's premier multimedia company with leading assets in television, radio and digital media. Bell is wholly owned by BCE Inc. (TSX, NYSE: BCE). For Bell products and services, please visit Bell.ca. For BCE corporate information, please visit BCE.ca. On April18, John Molson School of Business Dean Steve Harvey tackles the subject of mental health and the workplace with Mary Deacon,chair of the Bell Let's Talk mental health initiative. Read more at www.concordia.ca/now/what-we-do/research/20130122/living-well-aging-well.php. Related links: Bell Let's Talk mental health Initiative: www.bell.ca/letstalk Concordia Applied Psychology Centre: http://psychology.concordia.ca/appliedpsychologycentre.php Concordia Centre for Clinical Research in Health: http://psychology.concordia.ca/ccrh SOURCE: Bell Canada

Scott McCulloch Senior Advisor, Communications, Advancement and Alumni Relations Concordia University Tel: 514-848-2424, ext. 3825 Mobile: 514-513-8535 Email: [email protected] Website: concordia.ca/alumni-giving Twitter: twitter.com/ConcordiaAlumni Véronique Arsenault Bell Media Relations Tel.: 1-855-391-5263 Email: [email protected] Twitter: @Bell_News

Figure 8–8  Online News Release Courtesy: Bell Canada Enterprises

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CHAPTER 8  WRITING ROUTINE AND POSITIVE MESSAGES 229

the customary pattern for a positive message: good news followed by details and a positive close. However, news releases have a critical difference: you’re not writing directly to the ultimate audience (such as the readers of a newspaper); you’re trying to interest an editor or a reporter in a story, and that person will then write the material that is eventually read by the larger audience. To write a successful news release, keep the following points in mind:4 • Ensure that your information is newsworthy and relevant to the specific publications or websites to which you are sending it. Editors are overwhelmed with news releases, so those without real news content are disposed of—and can damage the writer’s credibility, too. • Focus on one subject; don’t try to pack a single news release with multiple, unrelated news items. • Put your most important idea first. Don’t force editors to hunt for the news. • Be brief: break up long sentences and keep paragraphs short. • Eliminate clutter such as redundancy and extraneous facts. • Be as specific as possible. • Minimize self-congratulatory adjectives and adverbs; if the content of your message is newsworthy, the media professionals will be interested in the news on its own merits. • Follow established industry conventions for style, punctuation, and format. Online distribution systems such as CNW (www.newswire.ca) and PR Newswire (www.prnewswire.com) make it easy for even the smallest companies to reach editors and reporters at the most prominent publications around the world. Many companies also create special media pages on their websites that contain their latest news releases, background information on the company, and archives of past news releases. Until recently, news releases were crafted in a way to provide information to reporters, who would then write their own articles if the subject matter was interesting to their readers. Thanks to the Internet and social media, however, the nature of the news release is changing. Many companies now view it as a general-purpose tool for communicating directly with customers and other audiences, creating direct-to-consumer news releases. As media expert David Meerman Scott puts it, “Millions of people read press releases directly, unfiltered by the media. You need to be speaking directly to them.”5 The newest twist on news releases is the social media release, which has several advantages over the traditional release. First, the social media release emphasizes bullet-point content over narrative paragraphs so that bloggers, editors, and others can assemble their own stories, rather than being forced to rewrite the material in a traditional release. Second, as an electronic-only document (a specialized webpage, essentially), the social media release offers the ability to include videos and other multimedia elements. Third, social bookmarking buttons make it easy for people to help publicize the content.6

Many companies now release news directly to the public rather than relying on the news media to share it.

FOSTERING GOODWILL All business messages should be written with an eye toward fostering goodwill among business contacts, but some messages are written primarily and specifically to build goodwill. You can use these messages to enhance your relationships with customers, colleagues, and other businesspeople by sending friendly or even unexpected notes with no direct business purpose. Effective goodwill messages must be sincere and honest. Otherwise, you’ll appear to be interested in personal gain rather than in benefiting customers, co-workers, or your organization. To come across as sincere, avoid exaggerating,

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5

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Describe the importance of goodwill messages and explain how to make them effective.

Goodwill is the positive feeling that encourages people to maintain a business relationship.

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230 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

Ensure that your compliments are both sincere and honest.

and back up any compliments with specific points. In addition, readers often regard more restrained praise as being more sincere: Instead of This

Use This

Words cannot express my appreciation for the great job you did. Thanks. No one could have done it better. You’re terrific! You’ve made the whole firm sit up and take notice, and we are ecstatic to have you working here.

Thanks again for taking charge of the meeting in my absence and doing such an excellent job. With just an hour’s notice, you managed to pull the legal and public relations departments together so we could present a united front in the negotiations. Your dedication and communication abilities have been noted and are truly appreciated.

Even though the second version is longer, it is a more effective message because it is specific and sincere. Taking note of significant events in someone’s personal life helps cement the business relationship.

messages is to congratulate someone for a significant business achievement— perhaps for being promoted or for attaining an important civic position. Compare the congratulatory notes in Figure 8–9, in which a manager at Office Supply corporate headquarters congratulates an advertising agency that was awarded a prestigious national contract. The draft version sounds vague and insincere, and it doesn’t bother to actually offer congratulations until the final sentence. In contrast, the revised version moves swiftly to the subject: the good news. It gives reasons for expecting success and avoids extravagant and essentially meaningless praise such as “Only you can do the job!” The highlights in people’s personal lives—weddings, births, and graduations—are also occasions for such goodwill messages. You may congratulate business acquaintances on their own achievements or on the accomplishments of a spouse or child. You may also take note of personal events, even if you don’t know the reader well. If you’re already friendly with the reader, a more personal tone is appropriate. SENDING MESSAGES OF APPRECIATION An important business quality is the ability to recognize the contributions of employees, colleagues, suppliers, and other associates. Your praise does more than just make the person feel good; it encourages further excellence. Moreover, a message of appreciation may become an important part of someone’s personnel file. So, when you write a message of appreciation, specifically mention the person or people you want to praise. The brief message that follows expresses gratitude and reveals the happy result:

Clive Chilvers/Alamy Stock Photo

An effective message of appreciation documents a person’s contributions.

SENDING CONGRATULATIONS One prime opportunity for sending goodwill

Employee volunteer activities not only contribute to the community but also can bring employees together. How should management acknowledge employee volunteerism? Are notes of appreciation sufficient? What are other methods for showing recognition?

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Thank you and everyone on your team for the heroic efforts you took to bring our servers back up after last Friday’s flood. We were able to restore business right on schedule first thing Monday morning. You went far beyond the level of contractual service in restoring our data centre within 16 hours. I would especially like to highlight the contribution of networking specialist Julienne Marks, who worked for 12 straight hours to reconnect our Internet service. If I can serve as a reference in your future sales activities, please do not hesitate to ask.

06/10/17 10:56 AM

CHAPTER 8  WRITING ROUTINE AND POSITIVE MESSAGES 231 The opening sounds condescending and self-centred—it expresses the reason but fails to actually congratulate the reader.

We are so pleased when companies that we admire do well. When we attended our convention in Montreal last month, we heard about your firm’s recent selection to design and print media advertisements for the Canadian Association of Business Suppliers (CABS). We have long believed that high-visibility projects such as these should be awarded to only the top-tier companies in the industry, and Lambert, Cutchen & Browt is clearly the only company for the job.

The body seems insincere because of the lack of supporting reasons and the exaggeration.

We wish you the best of luck with your new ad campaign. Congratulations on a job well done! Sincerely,

Congratulating the reader in the close makes it seem like an afterthought.

ft

a Dr

Janice McCarthy Director, Media Relations

OFFICE SUPPLY, INC. 1659 Lower Water Street Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 1R7

Phone: 902-555-8714 Fax: 902-555-8711 www.officesupply.com [email protected]

n

March 4, 2019

Mr. Ralph Lambert, President Lambert, Cutchen & Browt, Inc. 85, rue Dalhousie Québec City, QC G1K 7A7 The opening immediately expresses the reason for congratulating the reader.

The body makes the compliment more effective by showing knowledge of the reader’s work— without exaggeration.

io vis

Re

Dear Mr. Lambert: Congratulations on your firm’s recent selection to design and print media advertisements for the Canadian Association of Business Suppliers (CABS). Your appointment was announced at the national convention in Montreal last month, and here at Office Supply we can think of no better firm to help our industry achieve wide recognition. Over the course of many years, your firm’s work for Office Supply has been nothing short of excellent. Both our corporate advertising staff here in Nova Scotia and regional promotional managers around the country continue to offer compliments on the quality of LCB’s efforts. The campaign you will design for CABS is sure to yield similar positive responses. You can be sure we will follow your media campaign with great interest. Sincerely,

The letter closes by expressing interest in following the future success of the firm.

Janice McCarthy Director, Media Relations tw

Figure 8–9  Poor and Improved Versions of a Letter Congratulating a Business Acquaintance

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232 PART III  CRAFTING BRIEF MESSAGES

The primary purpose of condolence messages is to let the audience know that you and the organization you represent care about the person’s loss.

OFFERING CONDOLENCES  In times of serious trouble and deep sadness, wellwritten condolences and expressions of sympathy can mean a great deal to people who’ve experienced loss. This type of message is difficult to write, but don’t let the difficulty of the task keep you from responding promptly. Those who have experienced a health problem, the death of a loved one, or a business misfortune appreciate knowing that others care. Open a message of condolence with a brief statement of sympathy, such as “I was deeply sorry to hear of your loss.” In the body, mention the good qualities or the positive contributions made by the person or business. State what the person or business meant to you or to your colleagues. In closing, offer your condolences and best wishes. Here are a few general suggestions for writing condolence messages:

• Keep reminiscences brief. Recount a memory or an anecdote (even a humorous one), but don’t dwell on the details of the loss lest you add to the reader’s anguish. • Write in your own words. Write as if you were speaking privately to the person. Don’t quote “poetic” passages or use stilted or formal phrases. • Be tactful. Mention your shock and dismay, but remember that bereaved and distressed loved ones take little comfort in lines such as “Richard was too young to die” or “Starting all over again will be so difficult.” Try to strike a balance between superficial expressions of sympathy and painful references to a happier past or the likelihood of a bleak future. • Take special care. Ensure that you spell names correctly and are accurate in your review of facts. Be prompt. • Write about special qualities of the deceased. You may have to rely on reputation to do this, but let the grieving person know you valued his or her loved one. • Consider mentioning special attributes or resources of the bereaved person. If you know that the bereaved person has attributes or resources that will be a comfort in the time of loss, such as personal resilience, religious faith, or a circle of close friends, mentioning these can make the reader feel more confident about handling the challenges he or she faces. The following example, a message by a manager to his administrative assistant after learning of her husband’s death, shows sensitivity and sincerity: My sympathy to you and your children. All your friends at Carter Electric were so very sorry to learn of John’s death. Although I never had the opportunity to meet him, I do know how very special he was to you. Your tales of your family’s camping trips and his rafting expeditions were always memorable.

To review the tasks involved in writing goodwill messages, see “Checklist: Sending Goodwill Messages.”

✓Checklist

Sending Goodwill Messages

• Be sincere and honest. • Don’t exaggerate or use vague, grandiose language. Support positive statements with specific evidence. • Use congratulatory messages to build goodwill with clients and colleagues. • Send messages of appreciation to emphasize how much you value the work of others.

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• When sending condolence messages, open with a brief statement of sympathy, followed by an expression of how much the deceased person meant to you or your firm (as appropriate), and then close by offering your best wishes for the future.

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SUMMARY OF LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1 Outline an effective strategy for writing routine requests. When writing a routine request, open by stating your specific request. At the same time, avoid being abrupt or tactless: pay attention to tone; assume that your audience will comply; and be specific. Use the body of a routine request to justify your request and explain its importance. Close routine requests with a request for some specific action (including a deadline when possible), information about how you can be reached, and an expression of goodwill.

2 Describe an effective strategy for writing routine replies and positive messages. When writing routine and positive replies, open concisely and clearly with your main idea. Follow the opening with the necessary details and explanation, ensuring that you maintain a courteous, supportive tone. End with a courteous close, incorporating an audience benefit or expressing goodwill. If reader follow-up is required, make the action detailed.

3 Discuss the importance of knowing who is responsible when granting claims and requests for adjustment. In messages granting a claim, the explanatory section differs depending on who is at fault. If your company is at fault, avoid reacting defensively, and be careful when referring to company errors. Rather than placing blame, explain your company’s efforts to do a good job. Remember not to make any unrealistic promises or guarantees. If your customer is at fault, you must help your reader realize what

ON THE JOB

4 Explain how creating informative messages differs from responding to information requests. When writing informative messages and responses to information requests, open with the main idea. However, because informative messages are not solicited by your audience, you must clarify early in your message why the reader is receiving it. Furthermore, most informative messages are neutral, unlike responses to information requests, which motivate either a positive or negative reader response. In situations where readers may not view the information positively, stress potential reader benefits in the message body to encourage a positive reaction.

5 Describe the importance of goodwill messages and explain how to make them effective. Goodwill messages are important for building relationships with customers, co-workers, and other businesspeople. These friendly, unexpected notes have no direct business purpose, but they make people feel good about doing business with the sender. To make goodwill messages effective, be honest and sincere. Avoid exaggerating, back up compliments with specific points, and give restrained praise.

PERFORMING COMMUNICATION TASKS AT INDIGO BOOKS AND MUSIC

Heather Reisman wants to offer Canada’s book lovers “the best of a small proprietor-run shop combined with the selection of a true emporium.” The impact she has made demonstrates her ability to communicate with customers and employees. You have recently taken a job at Indigo Books and Music’s head office as an administrative assistant on the management team. One of your jobs entails drafting emails to Indigo store managers. Using the principles outlined in this chapter for writing direct requests, handle each situation to the best of your ability. Be prepared to explain your choices. 1. You are asked to contact the store managers to find out how the company’s website has affected sales in retail outlets over the past six months. Which is the best opening for this email? a. I have recently joined Heather Reisman’s staff as an administrative assistant. She has asked me to write to you to obtain your feedback on the impact on store sales

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went wrong so it won’t happen repeatedly. However, you don’t want to sound condescending, preachy, or insulting. If a third party is at fault, you can honour the claim with no explanation, or you can honour the claim and explain that the problem was not your fault.

of the company’s website over the last six months. Please reply to the following questions within five working days. [List of questions follows.] b. Please tell us what you think of www.chapters.indigo.ca. Ms. Reisman wants to evaluate its impact on our business. Within the next few days, can you take a few moments to jot down your thoughts on its impact? Specifically, Ms. Reisman would like to know . . . [List of questions follows.] c. By April 14, please submit written answers to the following questions on the Indigo website. [List of questions follows.] d. Has the website affected sales in your store over the past six months? We’re polling all store managers for the impact of online retailing. Is it thumbs up or thumbs down on the Web?

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2. Which is the best choice for the middle section of the email? a. Specifically, has store business decreased because of the website? If so, what is the percentage decrease in sales over the past six months? Over the comparable period past year? Have customers mentioned the website? If so, have their comments been positive or negative? Has employee morale been affected by the site? How? b. By replying to the following questions, you will help us decide whether to continue with the website as is or change it: 1. Has business decreased in your store since Indigo has had the website? If it has, what is the percentage decrease in sales over the past six months? Over the comparable period last year? 2. Have customers mentioned the website? If so, have their comments been positive or negative? Give some typical examples. 3. Has employee morale been affected by the website? How? c. By circling the response that most accurately reflects your store’s experience, please answer the following questions regarding the company’s new website: 1. Over the last six months, sales have a. increased b. decreased c. remained about the same 2. Customers (have/have not) mentioned the website. Their comments have been primarily (positive/negative). 3. Employee morale (has/has not) been affected by the website.

d. Ms. Reisman needs to know the following: 1. How have overall store sales changed over the past six months because of the company’s website? 2. What do customers think of the site? Attach complimentary customer comments. 3. What do employees think of the site? Attach complimentary employee comments. 3. For a courteous close with a request for specific action, which paragraph is the best? a. Thank you for your cooperation. Please submit your reply in writing by April 14. b. Ms. Reisman is meeting with her senior staff on April 16 to discuss the website. She would like to have your reaction in writing by April 14 so that she can present your views during that meeting. If you have any questions, please contact me at (416) 555-2886. c. You may contact me at (416) 555-2886 if you have any questions or need additional information about this survey. Ms. Reisman requires your written response by April 14 so she can discuss your views with her senior staff on April 16. d. Thank you for your input. As the front-line troops in the battle for sales, you are in a good position to evaluate the impact of the website. We here at corporate headquarters want to increase overall company sales, but we need your feedback. Please submit your written evaluation by April 14 so Ms. Reisman can use the results as ammunition in her meeting with senior staff on April 16.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. What is an effective strategy for writing a routine request?

6. How does a claim differ from an adjustment?

2. When is a request routine? 3. Why is tone important in routine messages?

7. How can you avoid sounding insincere when writing a goodwill message?

4. How do you ask for specific action in a courteous manner?

8. What are some guidelines for writing condolence messages?

5. How does the question of fault affect what you say in a message granting a claim?

APPLY YOUR KNOWLEDGE 1. When organizing request messages, why is it important to know whether any cultural differences exist between you and your audience? Explain. 2. Your company’s error cost an important business customer a new client; you know it and your customer knows it. Do you apologize, or do you refer to the incident in a positive light without admitting any responsibility? Explain. 3. Why is it good practice to explain why replying to a request could benefit the reader?

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4. Every time you send a direct-request memo to Ted Erasmus, who works in another department in your company, he delays or refuses to comply. You’re beginning to get impatient. Should you send Erasmus a memo to ask what’s wrong? Complain to your supervisor about Erasmus’s uncooperative attitude? Arrange a face-to-face meeting with Erasmus? Bring up the problem at the next staff meeting? Explain. 5. Ethical Choices You have a complaint against one of your suppliers, but you have no documentation to back it up. Should you request an adjustment anyway? Why or why not?

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RUNNING CASES > CASE 1  Noreen Now that Petro-Go is a larger company (see Chapter 6 for details on the merger with Best Gas), upper management has established a new procedure: regular semi-annual bonuses will be distributed to all employees who meet performance targets. The letter announcing this development will include a list of performance expectations and bonus goals. Noreen is asked to write the letter on her manager’s behalf informing the “Go Points” and “Collections” teams of this new bonus opportunity. Petro-Go will mail the letter, once approved, to each of the team members, letting them know that, because of their hard work over the past six months, they will each receive a bonus cheque. The cheques will be enclosed with the letters. Each member will receive a bonus amount based on their individual performance and achievements captured in the Petro-Go semi-annual statistics and progress reports.

c. How should Noreen end the letter? Why? d. Does Noreen need to include an announcement about the merger in this letter? e. What tone will Noreen use in this letter? YOUR TASK Write the letter. Remember to use company letterhead (create it yourself) and include an enclosure notation for the two enclosures. Also thank the team for their hard work and dedication to the company over the past six months. Let the employees know they can contact Noreen if they have questions or comments. This letter contains confidential information and should state so on the envelope and on the letter itself. Prepare the envelope. (See Appendix A for letter and envelope formats.)

QUESTIONS a. Is this a routine or good-news letter or both? b. What information should Noreen begin the letter with? Why?

> CASE 2  Kwong Kwong’s boss at Accountants For All asks him to write a letter replying to a corporate customer’s request for information. Kwong needs to write to Albridge and Scranton Ltd. to give them the details of the past five years’ tax summaries. John Albridge would like to know the total expenses claimed, primarily the vehicle expense deduction, and the total amount of refund/amount owed each year. Kwong needs to attach copies of each year’s summary statement as well. This is a good opportunity for Kwong to thank Albridge and Scranton Ltd. for their past business and let them know that Accountants For All looks forward to their future business. QUESTIONS a. Should Kwong list the information requested in the letter or simply attach the summary statements and refer the reader to those statements? b. Is this a routine or goodwill letter or both?

c. Is the direct or indirect approach best for this letter? Why? d. Is it best to thank the customer for their past business in the introductory part of the letter? Why or why not? e. Where in the letter should Kwong include the information about looking forward to doing future business with Albridge and Scranton Ltd.? YOUR TASK Write the letter. Remember to use company letterhead (create it yourself) and include an enclosure notation. Also thank the customer for their past and anticipated future business. Leave the customer with a contact name at Accountants For All for further inquiries. This letter contains confidential information; the envelope and the letter itself should state this. Prepare the envelope. (See Appendix A for letter and envelope formats.)

PRACTISE YOUR KNOWLEDGE Read the following documents, then (1) analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each sentence and (2) revise each document so that it follows this chapter’s guidelines.

DOCUMENT 8.A: REQUESTING ROUTINE INFORMATION FROM A BUSINESS Our university is closing its dining hall for financial reasons, so we want to do something to help the students prepare their

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own food in their residence rooms if they so choose. Your colourful ad in University Management Magazine caught our eye. We need the following information before we make our decision: • Would you be able to ship the microwaves by August 15? We realize this is short notice, but our board of trustees just made the decision to close the dining hall last week, and we’re scrambling around trying to figure out what to do.

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• Do they have any kind of a warranty? Students can be pretty hard on things, as you know, so we will need a good warranty. • How much does it cost? Do you give a discount for a big order? • Do we have to provide a special electrical outlet? • Will students know how to use them, or will we need to provide instructions? As I said before, we’re on a tight time frame and need good information from you as soon as possible to help us make our decision about ordering. You never know what the board might come up with next. I’m looking at several other companies, also, so please let us know ASAP.

DOCUMENT 8.B: MAKING CLAIMS AND REQUESTS FOR ADJUSTMENT At a local business-supply store, I recently purchased your Negotiator Pro for my computer. I bought the CD because I saw your ad for it in MacWorld magazine, and it looked as if it might be an effective tool for use in my corporate seminar on negotiation. Unfortunately, when I inserted it in my office computer, it wouldn’t work. I returned it to the store, but since I had already opened it, they refused to exchange it for a CD that would work or give me a refund. They told me to contact you and that you might be able to send me a version that would work with my computer. You can send the information to me at the letterhead address. If you cannot send me the correct disc, please refund my $79.95. Thanks in advance for any help you can give me in this matter.

DOCUMENT 8.C: RESPONDING TO CLAIMS AND ADJUSTMENT REQUESTS WHEN THE CUSTOMER IS AT FAULT We read your letter requesting your deposit refund. We couldn’t figure out why you hadn’t received it, so we talked to our maintenance engineer as you suggested. He said you had left one of the doors off the hinges in your apartment to get a large sofa through the door. He also confirmed that you had

paid him $35.00 to replace the door, since you had to turn in the U-Haul trailer and were in a big hurry. This entire situation really was caused by a lack of communication between our housekeeping inspector and the maintenance engineer. All we knew was that the door was off the hinges when it was inspected by Sally Tarnley. You know that our policy states that if anything is wrong with the apartment, we keep the deposit. We had no way of knowing that George just hadn’t gotten around to replacing the door. But we have good news. We approved the deposit refund, which will be mailed to you from our home office in Halifax, NS. I’m not sure how long that will take, however. If you don’t receive the cheque by the end of next month, give me a call. Next time, it’s really a good idea to stay with your apartment until it’s inspected as stipulated in your lease agreement. That way, you’ll be sure to receive your refund when you expect it. Hope you have a good summer.

DOCUMENT 8.D: WRITING A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION Your letter to Michael McKay, president of SoundWave Electronics, was forwarded to me because I am the human resources director. In my job as head of HR, I have access to performance reviews for all of the SoundWave employees in Canada. This means, of course, that I would be the person best qualified to answer your request for information on Nick Oshinski. In your letter of the 15th, you asked about Nick Oshinski’s employment record with us because he has applied to work for your company. Mr. Oshinski was employed with us from January 3, 2008, until February 27, 2009. During that time, Mr. Oshinski received ratings ranging from 2.5 up to 9.6, with 10 being the top score. As you can see, he must have done better reporting to some managers than to others. In addition, he took all vacation days, which is a bit unusual. Although I did not know Mr. Oshinski personally, I know that our best workers seldom use all the vacation time they earn. I do not know if that applies in this case. In summary, Nick Oshinski performed his tasks well depending on who managed him.

EXERCISES 8.1 Revising Messages: Directness and Conciseness Revise the following short email messages so they are more direct and concise; develop a subject line for each revised message: a. I’m contacting you about your recent email request for technical support on your cable Internet service. Part of the problem we have in tech support is trying to figure out exactly what each customer’s specific problem is so that

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we can troubleshoot quickly and get you back in business as quickly as possible. You may have noticed that in the online support request form, there are a number of fields to enter your type of computer, operating system, memory, and so on. While you did tell us you were experiencing slow download speeds during certain times of the day, you didn’t tell us which times specifically, nor did you complete all the fields telling us about your computer. Please return to our support website and resubmit your request,

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being sure to provide all the necessary information; then we’ll be able to help you. b. Thank you for contacting us about the difficulty you had collecting your luggage at Fort Simpson Airport. We are very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you. As you know, travelling can create problems of this sort regardless of how careful the airline personnel might be. To receive compensation, please send us a detailed list of the items that you lost and complete the following questionnaire. You can email it back to us. c. Sorry it took us so long to get back to you. We were flooded with résumés. Anyway, your résumé made the final 10, and after meeting three hours yesterday, we’ve decided we’d like to meet with you. What is your schedule like for next week? Can you come in for an interview on June 15 at 3:00 p.m.? Please get back to us by the end of this workweek and let us know if you will be able to attend. As you can imagine, this is our busy season. d. We’re letting you know that because we use over a tonne of paper a year and because so much of that paper goes into the wastebasket to become so much more environmental waste, starting Monday, we’re placing green plastic bins outside the elevators on every floor to recycle that paper and in the process, minimize pollution.

8.2 Revising Messages: Directness and Conciseness Rewrite the following sentences so that they are direct and concise. If necessary, divide your answer into two sentences. a. We wanted to invite you to our special 40 percent off byinvitation-only sale. The sale is taking place on November 9. b. We wanted to let you know that we are giving a tote bag and a voucher for five iTunes downloads with every $50 donation you make to our radio station. c. The director planned to go to the meeting that will be held on Monday at a little before 11 a.m. d. In today’s meeting, we were happy to have the opportunity to welcome Paul Eccleson. He reviewed some of the newest types of order forms. If you have any questions about these new forms, feel free to call him at his office.

8.3 Internet: Analyzing an E-card Analyze the following message: Dear Bill, I would like to take the tome to congradulate you on your new promotion. I know I spent lots of time with you to help you improve your skills so that you can now launch yourself in this new carrer. I hope you do me proud!

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Would you send this message? Why? Is it personal enough? Is it appropriate? How would you improve it?

8.4 Teamwork: Choosing Format and Approach With another student, identify the purpose and select the most appropriate format for communicating these written messages. Next, consider how the audience is likely to respond to each message. Based on this audience analysis, determine whether the direct or indirect approach would be effective for each message. Explain your reasoning. a. A notice to all employees about the placement of recycling bins by the elevator doors b. The first late-payment notice to a good customer who usually pays his bills on time

8.5 Revising Messages: Conciseness, Courteousness, and Specificity Critique the following closing paragraphs. How would you rewrite each to be concise, courteous, and specific? a. I need your response sometime soon so I can order the parts in time for your service appointment. Otherwise your air-conditioning system may not be in tip-top condition for the start of the summer season. b. Thank you in advance for sending me as much information as you can about your products. I look forward to receiving your package in the very near future. c. To schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable mortgage specialists in your area, you can always call our hotline at 1-800-555-8765. This is also the number to call if you have more questions about mortgage rates, closing procedures, or any other aspect of the mortgage process. Remember, we’re here to make the home-buying experience as painless as possible.

8.6 Ethical Choice: Customer Service Your company markets a line of automotive accessories for people who like to “tune” their cars for maximum performance. A customer has just written a furious email, claiming that a supercharger he purchased from your website didn’t deliver the extra engine power he expected. Your company has a standard refund process to handle situations such as this, and you have the information you need to inform the customer about that. You also have information that could help the customer find a more compatible supercharger from one of your competitors, but the customer’s email message is so abusive that you don’t feel obligated to help. Is this an appropriate response? Why or why not?

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CASES

APPLYING THE THREE-STEP WRITING PROCESS TO CASES

Apply each step to the following cases, as assigned by your instructor.

1

Planning

2

3

Writing

Analyze the Situation Identify both your general purpose and your specific purpose. Clarify exactly what you want your audience to think, feel, or believe after receiving your message. Profile your primary audience, including their backgrounds, differences, similarities, and likely reactions to your message.

Adapt to Your Audience Show sensitivity to audience needs with a “you” attitude, politeness, positive emphasis, and bias-free language. Understand how much credibility you already have—and how much you may need to establish. Project your company’s image by maintaining an appropriate style and tone.

Gather Information Identify the information your audience will need to receive, as well as other information you may need in order to craft an effective message.

Compose the Message Draft your message using precise language, effective sentences, and coherent paragraphs.

Select the Right Medium Make sure your medium is both acceptable to the audience and appropriate for the message.

Completing

Revise the Message Evaluate content and review readability, then edit and rewrite for conciseness and clarity. Produce the Message Use effective design elements and suitable layout for a clean, professional appearance. Proofread the Message Review for errors in layout, spelling, and mechanics; verify overall document quality. Distribute the Message Deliver your message using the chosen medium; make sure all documents and all relevant files are distributed successfully.

Organize the Information Choose a direct or indirect approach based on the audience and the message; most routine requests and routine and positive messages should employ a direct approach. Identify your main idea, limit your scope, then outline necessary support points and other evidence.

Routine Requests Letter Writing SKILLS

1. Step on It: Letter to Floorgraphics Requesting Information about Underfoot Advertising You work for Mary Utanpitak, owner of Better Bike and Ski Shop. Yesterday, Mary met with Schwinn sales representative Tom Beeker, who urged her to sign a contract with Floorgraphics. That company leases floor space from retail stores and then creates and sells floor ads to manufacturers such as Schwinn. Floorgraphics will pay Mary a fee for leasing the floor space, as well as a percentage for every ad it

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sells. Mary was definitely interested and turned to you after Beeker left. “Tom says that advertising decals on the floor in front of the product reach consumers right where they’re standing when making a decision,” explained Mary. “He says the ads increase sales from 25 to 75 percent.” You both look down at the dusty floor, and Mary laughs. “It seems funny that manufacturers will pay hard cash to put their names where customers are going to track dirt all over them! But if Tom’s telling the truth, we could profit in three ways: from the leasing fee, the increased sales of products being advertised, and the share in ad revenues. That’s not so funny.”

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Your task: Mary Utanpitak asks you to write a letter for her signature to CEO Richard Rebh at Floorgraphics, Inc. (1725 E. 3rd Avenue, Vancouver, BC, V5M 5R6) asking for financial details and practical information about the ads. For example, how will you clean your floors? Who installs and removes the ads? Can you terminate the lease if you don’t like the ads?7 Email SKILLS

2. Breathing Life Back into Your Biotech Career: Email Requesting a Recommendation After five years of work in the human resources department at Cell Genesys (a company that is developing cancer treatment drugs), you were laid off in a round of cost-cutting moves that rippled through the biotech industry in recent years. The good news is that you found stable employment in the grocery distribution industry. The bad news is that in the three years since you left Cell Genesys, you truly miss working in the exciting biotechnology field and having the opportunity to be a part of something as important as helping people recover from life-threatening diseases. You know that careers in biotech are uncertain, but you have a few dollars in the bank now, and you’re willing to ride that roller coaster again.

Your task: Draft an email to Calvin Morris, your old boss at Cell Genesys, reminding him of the time you worked together and asking him to write a letter of recommendation for you.8 Email SKILLS

3. Please Tell Me: Email Requesting Routine Information about a Product As a consumer, you’ve probably seen hundreds of products that you’d like to buy (if you haven’t, look at the advertisements in your favourite magazine for ideas). Choose a big-ticket item that is rather complicated, such as a stereo system or a vacation in the Caribbean.

Your task: You surely have some questions about the features of your chosen product or about its price, guarantees, local availability, and so on. Write an email to the company or organization that’s offering it, and ask four questions that are important to you. Ensure that you include enough background information for the reader to answer your questions satisfactorily.

6GZV/GUUCIKPI5-+..5

4. Tracking the New Product Buzz: Text Message to Colleagues at a Trade Show The vast Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the premier promotional event in the industry. More than 130 000 industry insiders from all over the world come to see the exciting new products on display from nearly 1500 companies—everything

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from video game gadgets to Internet-enabled refrigerators with built-in computer screens. You’ve just stumbled on a video game controller that has a built-in webcam to allow networked gamers to see and hear each other while they play. Your company also makes game controllers, and you’re worried that your customers will flock to this new controller-cam. You need to know how much “buzz” is circulating around the show: Have people seen it? What are they saying about it? Are they excited about it?

Your task: Compose a text message to your colleagues at the show, alerting them to the new controller-cam and asking them to listen for any “buzz” that it might be generating among the attendees at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the several surrounding hotels where the show takes place. Here’s the catch: your text messaging service limits messages to 160 characters, including spaces and punctuation, so your message can’t be any longer than this.9 Letter Writing SKILLS

5. Couch Potato: Letter Requesting Refund from House of Couches Furniture Store You finally saw the couch you need: the colour is perfect (royal blue), the length is just right (it could seat you, your husband, and the kids), and the style is ideal for your furnishings (modern but classic). With the scratch-and-save card, you bought it at a 40 percent discount, bringing the price to a mere $600 plus delivery and taxes. The salesperson who served you said that for an extra $10 you can have “deluxe delivery”: the new couch will be taken out of its box and put into place, and the cardboard and your old couch removed. You wouldn’t have to arrange removal on your own. “Deluxe delivery” sounded great, and the price was right. You decided to pay for it. The day of delivery, your couch arrived wrapped in plastic. The deliverymen dropped it in the middle of your living room and started to leave, with their hands out for a tip. You reminded them about “deluxe delivery.” They removed the plastic covering, took your old, sagging couch to the garage after you asked them twice, saying they didn’t remove couches from the owner’s property. They left grumbling. You could have done everything with the help of your spouse and saved the $10. That afternoon you called customer service at House of Couches seeking a refund of the $10 you paid for “deluxe delivery.” The representative refused to honour your request, saying that the deliverers fulfilled the “deluxe delivery” conditions.

Your task: You feel that the salesperson lied to you and that the customer service representative was rude. You decide to write to the owner of House of Couches, Fritz Wegman, to seek satisfaction. His address is House of Couches, 2 Broad Street, Regina, SK, S1P 1Y2.

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Email SKILLS

6. Website: Email Message from Knitsmart Yarn and Needles Requesting Additional Information Knitting, an enjoyable hobby that whiled away cold winter evenings in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, has given cousins Lee O’Reilly and Siobhan Gavin a local following and fame throughout the hand-knitting community in the Atlantic provinces as well as in fashionable shops in Canada’s large cities. First teaching their young relatives and neighbours the art of knitting, they soon branched into selling yarn out of Lee’s basement and then running small classes for different skill levels. After opening a small yarn shop in Corner Brook’s shopping district, they began creating their own knitwear designs and selling them as kits, supplied with yarn and knitting needles, through their shop and catalogue. After their designs caught the eye of a Holt Renfrew buyer, their business took off beyond what the cousins ever imagined. Their colourful sweater and hat designs are worn by not only socialites but also film and stage performers attracted to their uniqueness. Little did the cousins think that their hobby would become a cottage industry and then a major business. You’ve been working at Knitsmart Yarn and Needles during your summer break from university, and you think it’s time that Lee and Siobhan branched into new territory: the World Wide Web. You think that the cousins should build a website where they can gain new customers, interest other people in their craft, and inspire knitters around the world with their patterns. You find an advertisement in the local newspaper for a company that creates websites (Webtech), but the classified ad gives little information beyond a phone number and an email address.

Your task: You will set aside time next week to discuss the opportunities a Knitsmart website offers to Lee and Siobhan. Write an email message requesting more information from Webtech about what the company can do for Knitsmart Yarn and Needles. IM SKILLS

7. Transglobal Exchange: Instant Message Request for Information from a Chinese Manufacturer Fortunately, your company, Diagonal Imports, chose the Sametime enterprise instant messaging software produced by IBM Lotus. Other products also allow you to carry on real-time exchanges with colleagues on the other side of the planet, but Sametime supports bidirectional machine translation, and you’re going to need it. The problem is that production on a popular line of decorative lighting appliances produced at your Chinese manufacturing plant inexplicably came to a halt last month. As the product manager in Canada, you have many resources you could call on to help, such as new sources for faulty parts. But you can’t do anything if you don’t know the details. You’ve

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tried telephoning top managers in China, but they’re not giving you the responses you need. Finally, your friend Kuei-chen Tsao has returned from a business trip. You met her during your trip to China last year. She doesn’t speak English, but she’s the line engineer responsible for this particular product: a fibre-optic lighting display that features a plastic base with a rotating colour wheel. As the wheel turns, light emitted from the spray of fibre-optic threads changes colour in soothing patterns. Product #3347XM is one of Diagonal’s most popular items, and you’ve got orders from novelty stores around Canada waiting to be filled. Kuei-chen should be able to explain the problem, determine whether you can help, and tell you how long before regular shipping resumes.

Your task: Write the first of what you hope will be a productive instant message exchange with Kuei-chen. Remember that your words will be machine translated.10

Routine Messages Podcasting SKILLS



Portfolio BUILDER

8. Listening to Business: Using the iPod to Train Employees As a training specialist in Winnebago Industry’s human resources department, you’re always on the lookout for new ways to help employees learn vital job skills. While watching a production worker page through a training manual while learning how to assemble a new recreational vehicle, you get what seems to be a great idea: record the assembly instructions as audio files that workers can listen to while performing the necessary steps. With audio instructions, they wouldn’t need to keep shifting their eyes between the product and the manual—and constantly losing their place. They could focus on the product and listen for each instruction. Also, the new system wouldn’t cost much at all; any computer can record the audio files, and you’d simply make them available on an intranet site for download onto iPods or other digital music players.

Your task: You immediately run your new idea past your boss, who has heard about podcasting but doesn’t think it has any place in business. He asks you to prove the practicality of the idea. You need to send him an email listing various podcasts that you think are beneficial to the public. Research podcasts that give instructions, and then write a message to your boss with a list of these. Remember that this is a routine message and that you are providing information to someone who has limited knowledge of this genre. Reader focus is extremely important. Letter Writing SKILLS

9. Got It Covered? Letter from American Express about SUV Rentals You can always tell when fall arrives at American Express— you are deluged with complaints from customers who’ve just

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received their summer vacation bills. Often these angry calls are about a shock-inducing damage repair bill from a car rental agency. Vacation car rentals can be a lot more complicated than most people think. Here’s what happens. Your credit card customers are standing at the Hertz or Avis counter, ready to drive away, when the agent suggests an upgrade to, say, a Ford Expedition or another large SUV. Feeling happy-go-lucky while on vacation, your customers say, “Why not?” and hand over their American Express card. As they drive off in large vehicles that many are unaccustomed to handling, 9 out of 10 are unaware that the most common accidents among rental cars take place at low speeds in parking lots. Also, the upgraded vehicle they’re driving is no longer fully covered either by their regular auto insurance or by the secondary car rental insurance they expect from American Express. If they’ve agreed to pay the additional $10 to $25 a day for the car rental agency’s “collision and liability damage waiver fee,” they will be able to walk away from any accident with no liability. Otherwise, they’re running a costly risk. Soon they pull into a shopping mall with the kids to pick up the forgotten sunscreen and sodas, where they discover that the luxury road-warrior-mobile is not so easy to park in stalls designed in the 1970s and 1980s when compact cars were all the rage. Thwack—there goes the door panel. Crunch—a rear bumper into a light post. Wham! There goes the family bank account, but they don’t realize it yet—not until they receive the bill from the rental agency, the one that comes after their auto insurance and credit card companies have already paid as much as they’re going to pay for damages. Auto insurers typically provide the same coverage for rentals as you carry on your own car. When customers use their credit card to pay for car rentals, American Express offers secondary protection that generally covers any remaining unpaid damages. But there are important exceptions. Neither insurance nor credit card companies will pay the “loss of vehicle use fees” that car rental agencies always tack on. These fees can run into thousands of dollars, based on the agency’s revenue losses while their car is in the repair shop. When your customers are billed for this fee, they invariably call you, angrily demanding to know why American Express won’t pay it. And if they’ve rented an SUV, they’re even angrier. American Express Green and Gold cards provide secondary coverage up to $55 000, and the Platinum card extends that to $75 000. But large SUVs such as the Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon, and Chevrolet Suburban are not covered at all. Such exclusions are common. For example, Diners Club specifically excludes “high-value, special interest or exotic cars”— such as the Ferraris, Maseratis, and even Rolls-Royces that are urged on customers by rental agencies.

Your task: As assistant vice president of customer service, you’d like to keep the phone lines cooler this summer and fall. It’s April, so there’s still time. Write a form letter to be sent to all American Express customers, urging them to check their rental car coverages, advising them against renting vehicles that are

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larger than they really require, and encouraging them to consider paying the rental agency’s daily loss waiver fees.11

Blogging SKILLS

10. Here’s How It Will Work: Explaining the Brainstorming Process Austin, Texas, advertising agency GSD&M Advertising brainstorms new advertising ideas using a process it calls dynamic collaboration. A hand-picked team of insiders and outsiders is briefed on the project and given a key question or two to answer. The team members then sit down at computers and anonymously submit as many responses as they can within five minutes. The project moderators then pore over these responses, looking for any sparks that can ignite new ways of understanding and reaching out to consumers.

Your task: For these brainstorming sessions, GSD&M recruits an eclectic mix of participants from inside and outside the agency—figures as diverse as economists and professional video gamers. To make sure everyone understands the brainstorming guidelines, prepare a message to be posted on the project blog. In your own words, convey the following four points as clearly and succinctly as you can:

• Be yourself. We want input from as many perspectives as possible, which is why we recruit such a diverse array of participants. Don’t try to get into what you believe is the mindset of an advertising specialist; we want you to approach the given challenge using whatever analytical and creative skills you normally employ in your daily work. • Create, don’t edit. Don’t edit, refine, or self-censor while you’re typing during the initial five-minute session. We don’t care if your ideas are formatted beautifully, phrased poetically, or even spelled correctly. Just crank ’em out as quickly as you can. • It’s about the ideas, not the participants. Just so you know up front, all ideas are collected anonymously. We can’t tell who submitted the brilliant ideas, the boring ideas, or the already-tried-that ideas. So while you won’t get personal credit, you can also be crazy and fearless. Go for it! • The winning ideas will be subjected to the toughest of tests. Just in case you’re worried about submitting ideas that could be risky, expensive, or difficult to implement—don’t fret. As we narrow down the possibilities, the few that remain will be judged, poked, prodded, and assessed from every angle. In other words, let us worry about containing the fire; you come up with the sparks.12

Routine Replies Email SKILLS

11. Auto-Talk: Email Messages for Highway Bytes Computers to Send Automatically You are the director of customer service at Highway Bytes, which markets a series of small, handlebar-mounted computers

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for bicyclists. These Cycle Computers do everything, from computing speed and distance travelled to displaying street maps. Serious cyclists love them, but your company is growing so fast that you can’t keep up with all the customer service requests you receive every day. Your boss wants not only to speed up response time but also to reduce staffing costs and allow your technical experts the time they need to focus on the most difficult and important questions. You’ve just been reading about automated response systems, and you quickly review a few articles before discussing the options with your boss. Artificial intelligence researchers have been working for decades to design systems that can actually converse with customers, ask questions, and respond to requests. Some of today’s systems have vocabularies of thousands of words and the ability to understand simple sentences. For example, chatterbots are automated bots that can actually mimic human conversation. (You can see what it’s like to carry on a conversation with a bot by visiting www.jabberwacky.com.) Unfortunately, even though chatterbots hold a lot of promise, human communication is so complex that a truly automated customer service agent could take years to perfect (and may even prove to be impossible). However, the simplest automated systems are called autoresponders or email-ondemand. They are fast and extremely inexpensive. They have no built-in intelligence, so they do nothing more than send back the same reply to every message they receive. You explain to your boss that although some messages you receive require the attention of your product specialists, many are simply requests for straightforward information. In fact, the customer service staff already answer some 70 percent of email queries with three ready-made attachments:

• Installing Your Cycle Computer. Gives customers advice on installing the Cycle Computer the first time or reinstalling it on a new bike. In most cases, the computer and wheel sensor bolt directly to the bike without modification, but certain bikes do require extra work. • Troubleshooting Your Cycle Computer. Provides a step-by-step guide to figure out what might be wrong with a malfunctioning Cycle Computer. Most problems are simple, such as dead batteries or loose wires, but others are beyond the capabilities of your typical customer. • Upgrading the Software in Your Cycle Computer. Tells customers how to attach the Cycle Computer to their home or office PC and download new software from Highway Bytes. Your boss is enthusiastic when you explain that you can program your current email system to look for specific words in incoming messages and then respond based on what it finds. For example, if a customer message contains the word “installation,” you can program the system to reply with the “Installing Your Cycle Computer” attachment. This reconfigured system should be able to handle a sizable portion of the hundreds of emails your customer service group gets every week.

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Your task: First, draft a list of keywords that you’ll want your email system to look for. You’ll need to be creative and spend some time with a thesaurus. Identify all the words and word combinations that could identify a message as pertaining to one of the three subject areas. For example, the word attach would probably indicate a need for the installation material, whereas new software would most likely suggest a need for the upgrade attachment. Second, draft three short email messages to accompany each ready-made attachment, explaining that the attached document answers the most common questions on a particular subject (for example, installation, troubleshooting, or upgrading). Your messages should invite recipients to write back if the attached document doesn’t solve the problem, and don’t forget to provide the email address: [email protected]. Third, draft a fourth message to be sent out whenever your new system is unable to figure out what the customer is asking for. Simply thank the customer for writing and explain that the query will be passed on to a customer service specialist who will respond shortly.

Email SKILLS

12. Error Correction: Granting a Claim for a Wrong Product Your company sells flower arrangements and gift baskets. Holidays are always a rush, and the overworked staff makes the occasional mistake. Last week, somebody made a big one. As a furious email message from a customer named Anders Ellison explains, he ordered a Valentine’s Day bouquet for his wife, but the company sent a bereavement arrangement instead.

Your task: Respond to Ellison’s email message, apologizing for the error, promising to refund all costs that Ellison incurred, informing him that the correct arrangement will arrive tomorrow (and he won’t be charged anything for it), and offering Ellison his choice of any floral arrangement or gift basket for free on his wife’s birthday. Email SKILLS

13. Shopping for Talent: Memo at Clovine’s Recommending a Promotion You enjoy your duties as manager of women’s sportswear at Clovine’s—a growing chain of moderate to upscale department stores in British Columbia. You especially enjoy being able to recommend someone for a promotion. Today, you received a memo from Rachel Cohen, head buyer for women’s apparel. She is looking for a smart, aggressive employee to become assistant buyer for Clovine’s women’s sportswear division. Clovine’s likes to promote from within, and Rachel is asking all managers and supervisors for likely candidates. You have just the person she’s looking for. Jennifer Ramirez is a salesclerk in the designer sportswear boutique of your main store in Vancouver, and she has caught your attention. She’s quick, friendly, and good at sizing up a

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customer’s preferences. Moreover, at recent department meetings, she’s made some intelligent remarks about new trends in fashion.

the Canadian Public Relations Society. Now you’d like to give your team a pat on the back by sharing the news with the rest of the company.

Your task: Write a memo to Rachel Cohen, head buyer,

Your task: Write a one-paragraph message for the PR department blog (which is read by people throughout the company but is not accessible outside the company) announcing the award. Take care not to “toot your own horn” as the manager of the PR department, and use the opportunity to compliment the rest of the company for designing and producing such an innovative product.13

women’s sportswear, recommending Jennifer Ramirez and evaluating her qualifications for the promotion. Rachel can check with the human resources department about Jennifer’s educational and employment history; you’re mainly interested in conveying your positive impression of Jennifer’s potential for advancement.

Email SKILLS

14. Cable Hiccups: Email Reply to an Unhappy Cable Internet Customer As a customer service agent working for your local cable company, you’ve received the occasional complaint such as the one you’re looking at on your computer monitor. The writer says: I’m fed up with your cable Internet service. I’ve had my new computer for about a year and used the slow dial-up ISP service only because the manufacturer included it for free. I got your high-speed cable Internet service because your advertising promised it was 30 times faster than dialup. I’ve used it since March, and I’m very disappointed. I’m paying $39.95 a month, plus taxes, but twice in the last month I’ve been unable to connect and service is a lot slower than advertised. What a rip-off! I’m a student and I work part-time. I do a lot of my research for essays and reports over the Internet. Not to mention email. I have deadlines to meet. I want you to cancel my service and refund me my last two months’ payments. You know that many people complain that the cable line is shared with neighbours, which might slow down service. But slowdowns are rare with cable and happen with high-speed phone lines too. Cable Internet service has a lot of capacity and can provide rapid access to the Internet, even though lines are shared. You think the writer is exaggerating and just wants to get his money back because the message is dated April 6, near the end of the school term.

Your task: You’ll send a positive email to the writer indicating that your company will refund the amount he requests. Write to [email protected]. You’ve been trained to educate consumers about cable Internet service.

Positive Messages Blogging SKILLS    Portfolio BUILDER

15. Leveraging the Good News: Blog Announcement of a Prestigious Professional Award You and your staff in the public relations department at Epson were delighted when the communication campaign you created for wearable technology (www.epson.ca/For-Home/ Wearables/h/h4) received the prestigious Silver Anvil award by

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Letter Writing SKILLS

16. ABCs: Form Letter Thanking Volunteers Working together with government, educators, labour, and business, ABC Canada, a national literacy organization, promotes awareness of literacy and works to involve the private sector in supporting literacy. Its aim is “to promote a fully literate Canadian population.” People in your firm, Fine Paper Company, participated in the annual PGI Golf Tournament for Literacy, which was founded by Peter Gzowski, one of Canada’s great broadcasters and writers, and best known for his morning show on the CBC. The PGI is a very successful fundraising event, having generated $5 million over more than a decade. PGI tournaments are held in every province and territory. Statistics Canada’s report Literary Skills for the Knowledge Society notes that “22 percent of adult Canadians have serious problems with printed materials” and that “24 to 26 percent of Canadians can only deal with simple reading tasks.” Not only does your firm support the PGI Golf Tournament with monetary donations—and golf lovers—but the CEO, Laurent DesLauriers, established a volunteer program for employees to donate their time at local community centres to help adults learn to read. This program has become a success at Fine Paper Company.

Your task: As a human resources specialist at Fine Paper Company, you are sometimes asked to write goodwill letters to employees, a job you enjoy doing. Mr. DesLauriers has directed the office to send a thank-you letter to all the volunteers—those who participated in the golf tournament and those who volunteer their time at the community centres. You will compose a form letter, which will be merged with individual employees’ names and addresses.14 Memo Writing SKILLS

17. Learn While You Earn: Memo Announcing Burger House’s Educational Benefits Your boss, Mike Andrade, owner of three Burger House restaurants in downtown Montreal, is worried about employee turnover. He needs to keep 50 people on his payroll to operate the outlets, but recruiting and retaining those people is tough. The average employee leaves after about seven months, so Andrade has to hire and train 90 people a year just to maintain a 50-person crew. At a cost of $1500 per hire, the price tag for all that turnover is approximately $62 000 a year.

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Andrade knows that a lot of his best employees quit because they think that flipping burgers is a dead-end job. But what if it weren’t a dead end? What if a person could really get someplace flipping burgers? What if Andrade offered to pay his employees’ way through school if they remained with the store? Would that keep them behind the counter? He’s decided to give educational incentives a try. Employees who choose to participate will continue to earn their usual wages, but they will also get free books and tuition, keyed to the number of hours they work each week. Those who work 10 to 15 hours a week can take one free course at any local college or university; those who work 16 to 25 hours can take two courses; and those who work 26 to 40 hours can take three courses. The program is open to all employees, regardless of how long they have worked for Burger House, but no one is obligated to participate.

Your task: Draft a memo for Mr. Andrade to send out announcing the new educational incentives.15

Letter Writing SKILLS

lost his wife in an automobile accident (he and his teenage daughter weren’t with her at the time). Because you’re the boss, everyone in the close-knit department is looking to you to communicate the group’s sympathy and concern. Someone suggested a simple greeting card that everyone could sign, but that seems so impersonal for someone you’ve worked with every day for nearly five years. So you decided to write a personal note on behalf of the whole department. Although you met Jean’s wife, Rosalia, at a few company functions, you knew her mostly through Jean’s frequent references to her. You didn’t know her well, but you do know important things about her life, which you can celebrate in the letter. You plan to suggest that when he returns to work, he might like to move his schedule up an hour so that he’ll have more time to spend with his daughter, Lisa, after school. It’s your way of helping make their lives a little easier for them during this period of adjustment.

Your task: Write the letter to Jean Dary, who lives at 4141 rue Peel #10, Montreal, QC, H3B 1B3. (Feel free to make up any details you need.)16

18. Our Sympathy: Condolence Letter to a Mackie Insurance Underwriter As chief administrator for the underwriting department of Mackie Health Plans in Montreal, Quebec, you’re facing a difficult task. One of your best underwriters, Jean Dary, recently

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9

Writing Negative Messages

LEARNING OBJECTIVES  After studying this chapter, you will be able to

1

Apply the three-step writing process to negative messages

5

List the important points to consider when conveying negative organizational news

2

Explain how to use the direct approach effectively when conveying negative news

6

Describe successful strategies for sending negative employment-related messages

3

Explain how to use the indirect approach effectively when conveying negative news

4

Explain the importance of maintaining high standards of ethics and etiquette when delivering negative messages

ON THE JOB: COMMUNICATING AT

MyLab Business Communication Visit MyLab Business Communication to access a variety of online resources directly related to this chapter’s content.

MAPLE LEAF FOODS Leading in a Crisis

REUTERS/Mike Cassese

www.mapleleaf.ca

Michael McCain, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, was praised by crisis management experts for his leadership during the Listeria crisis in summer and fall 2008, when 22 people died from food-borne bacteria. His prompt action, empathy, and transparency helped the company regain the confidence of consumers and maintain its prominence in the food industry.

In the summer and fall of 2008, Michael McCain, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, faced the severest challenge of his career: dealing with fatal food-borne bacteria in several products made by the company that were linked to the deaths of 22 people. Communication was the key to McCain’s success in restoring public confidence in Maple Leaf Foods, a firm with more than 24 000 employees and $5.2 billion in sales in 2008. The first announcement dealing with the crisis appeared on August 17, 2008, when the company issued a health hazard alert warning the public about two meat products possibly contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, especially dangerous to pregnant women, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. Another news release followed three days later, on August 20, announcing an expanded withdrawal of Maple Leaf products and the closure of the company’s Toronto plant. On August 23, McCain taped a television statement responding to findings by government health agencies that linked the deaths of several people to the same Listeria strain found in some Maple Leaf products. In addition to the shutdown of the company’s Toronto plant, McCain apologized and expressed his sympathy to the people and families affected by the crisis. In the weeks that followed, Maple Leaf Foods published open letters in newspapers across Canada. The company described precautionary measures: recalling 191 products in addition to the three that were contaminated, contacting 245

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more than 15 000 retail and food service customers nationwide to ensure the products were removed from shelves, and engaging an outside technical expert panel to conduct a comprehensive investigation to identify the likely source of the contamination. Furthermore, McCain recorded additional television advertisements and videos explaining Maple Leaf’s plans that were made available on the company’s website and YouTube. In each announcement McCain showed the human face of the company. McCain’s prompt actions and sensitivity to the victims and their families earned him the 2008 Business Newsmaker

of the Year Award. Experts praised him for applying effective crisis management strategy: being proactive, speaking honestly and transparently, and maintaining constant communication with employees and the public. But McCain commented, “This is not about some contrived strategy. It’s just about a tragic situation and an organization’s desire to make it right.”1 If you had to handle a business crisis, how would you plan your communications? How would you deliver your messages? How would you demonstrate sensitivity to your audiences?

Using the Three-Step Writing Process for Negative Messages 1

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Apply the three-step writing process to negative messages.

Negative messages can have as many as five goals: • Give the bad news. • Ensure acceptance of the bad news. • Maintain reader’s goodwill. • Maintain organization’s good image. • Reduce future correspondence on the matter. Analysis, investigation, and adaptation help you avoid alienating your readers.

Chances are slim that you’ll be in a position like Michael McCain’s, but communicating negative news is a fact of life for all business professionals, whether it’s saying no to a request, sharing unpleasant or unwelcome information, or issuing a public apology. With the techniques you’ll learn in this chapter, however, you can communicate unwelcome news successfully while minimizing unnecessary stress for everyone involved. When you need to send a negative message, you have five goals: (1) to convey the bad news; (2) to gain acceptance for the bad news; (3) to maintain as much goodwill as possible with your audience; (4) to maintain a good image for your organization; and (5) if appropriate, to reduce or eliminate the need for future correspondence on the matter (however, in a few cases, you want to encourage discussion). Five goals are clearly a lot to accomplish in one message, so careful planning and execution are critical with negative messages.

Adam Gregor/Fotolia

STEP 1: PLANNING A NEGATIVE MESSAGE

Higher fees or loan refusals are two examples of bad-news messages that banks send to customers. Is it more difficult for banks to communicate bad news than for other types of businesses? Are there special image or ethical concerns that banks face?

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When planning negative messages, you can’t avoid the fact that your audience does not want to hear what you have to say. To minimize the damage to business relationships and to encourage the acceptance of your message, analyze the situation carefully to better understand the context in which the recipient will process your message. Be sure to consider your purpose thoroughly— whether it’s straightforward (such as rejecting a job application) or more complicated (such as drafting a negative performance review, in which you not only give the employee feedback on past performance but also help the person develop a plan to improve future performance). With a clear purpose and your audience’s needs in mind, identify and gather the information your audience will need to understand and accept your message. Negative messages can be intensely personal to the recipient, and in many cases recipients have a right to expect a thorough explanation of your answer.

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Selecting the right medium is critical. For example, bad news for employees should be delivered in person whenever possible, to guard their privacy, demonstrate respect, and give them an opportunity to ask questions. Doing so isn’t always possible or feasible, though, so you will have times when you need to share important negative information through written or electronic media. Defining your main idea in a negative message is often more complicated than simply saying no. For example, if you need to respond to a hardworking employee who requested a raise, your message would go beyond saying no to explain how he or she can improve performance by working smarter, not just harder. Finally, the organization of a negative message requires particular care. One of the most critical planning decisions is choosing whether to use the direct or indirect approach (see Figure 9–1). A negative message using the direct approach opens with the bad news, proceeds to the reasons for the situation or the decision, and ends with a positive statement aimed at maintaining a good relationship with the audience. In contrast, the indirect approach opens with the reasons behind the bad news before presenting the bad news itself. To help decide which approach to take in any situation you encounter, ask yourself the following questions: • Will bad news come as a shock? The direct approach is fine for business situations in which people readily acknowledge the possibility of receiving bad news. However, if bad news might come as a shock to readers, use the indirect approach to help them prepare for it. • Does the reader prefer short messages that get right to the point? For example, if you know that your boss always wants brief messages that get right to the point, even when they deliver bad news, use the direct approach. • How important is this news to the reader? For minor or routine scenarios, the direct approach is nearly always best. However, if the reader has an emotional investment in the situation or the consequences to the reader are considerable, the indirect approach is often best because it gives you a chance to prepare that reader to accept your news. • Do you need to maintain a close working relationship with the reader? Pay attention to the relationship as you deliver bad news. The indirect approach makes it easier to soften the blow of bad news and can therefore be the better choice when you need to preserve a good relationship.

Direct Approach Firmness is needed Reader won’t be disappointed Situation is routine or minor Audience prefers bad news first BAD NEWS REASONS POSITIVE CLOSE

When preparing negative messages, choose the medium with care.

Appropriate organization helps readers accept your negative news.

You need to consider a variety of factors when choosing between direct and indirect approaches for negative messages.

Indirect Approach Audience will be displeased Audience is emotionally involved BUFFER REASONS BAD NEWS POSITIVE CLOSE

Figure 9–1  Choosing the Indirect or Direct Approach for Negative Messages

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• Do you need to get the reader’s attention? If someone hasn’t responded to repeated messages, the direct approach can help you get his or her attention. • What is your organization’s preferred style? Some companies have a distinct communication style, ranging from blunt and direct to gentle and indirect. • How much follow-up communication do you want? If you want to discourage a response from your reader, the direct approach signals the finality of your message more effectively. However, if you use the indirect approach to list your reasons before announcing a decision, you allow a follow-up response from your reader—which might actually be the best strategy at times. For example, if you’re rejecting a project team’s request for funding based on the information you currently have, you might be wise to invite the team to provide any new information that could encourage you to reconsider your decision.

STEP 2: WRITING A NEGATIVE MESSAGE

Compared with external audiences, internal audiences often expect more detail in negative messages.

You may need to adjust the content of negative messages for various external audiences.

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When you are adapting a negative message to your audience, pay close attention to effectiveness and diplomacy. After all, your audience does not want to hear bad news or something they will disagree with, so messages perceived to be unclear or unkind will amplify the audience’s stress. The section “Continuing with a Clear Statement of the Bad News” later in this chapter has advice on conveying unpleasant news with care and tact. Cultural expectations also play a role, from the organizational culture within a company to regional variations around the world. The disappointing nature of negative messages requires that you maintain your audience focus and be as sensitive as possible to audience needs. For example, internal audiences often have expectations regarding negative messages that differ from those of external audiences. In some cases, the two groups can interpret the news in different or even opposite ways. Employees will react negatively to news of an impending layoff, for instance, but company shareholders might welcome the news as evidence that management is trying to control costs. In addition, if a negative message such as news of a layoff is being sent to internal and external audiences, employees will expect not only more detail but also to be informed before the public is told. Negative messages to outside audiences require attention to the diverse nature of the audience and the concern for confidentiality of internal information. A single message might have a half-dozen audiences, all with differing opinions and agendas. You may not be able to explain things to the level of detail that some of these people want if doing so would release proprietary information such as future product plans. If your credibility hasn’t already been established with an audience, lay out your qualifications for making the decision in question. Recipients of negative messages who don’t think you are credible are more likely to challenge your decision. And as always, projecting and protecting your company’s image is a prime concern; if you’re not careful, a negative answer could spin out of control into negative feelings about your company. When you use language that conveys respect and avoids an accusing tone, you protect your audience’s pride. This kind of communication etiquette is always important, but it demands special care with negative messages. Moreover, you can ease the sense of disappointment by using positive words rather than negative, counterproductive ones (see Table 9–1). You’ll likely spend more time on word, sentence, and paragraph choices for negative messages than for any other type of business writing. People who receive

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Table 9–1

Choosing Positive Words

Examples of Negative Phrasings

Positive Alternatives

Your request doesn’t make any sense.

Please clarify your request.

The damage won’t be fixed for a week.

The item will be repaired next week.

Although it wasn’t our fault, there will be an unavoidable delay in your order.

Your order will be processed as soon as we receive an aluminum shipment from our supplier, which we expect to happen within 10 days.

You are clearly dissatisfied.

We are doing what we can to correct the situation.

I was shocked to learn that you’re unhappy.

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the service you received while shopping with us.

Unfortunately, we haven’t received it.

It hasn’t arrived yet.

The enclosed statement is wrong.

Please recheck the enclosed statement.

negative messages often look for subtle shades of meaning, seeking flaws in your reasoning or other ways to challenge the decision. By writing clearly and sensitively, you can take some of the sting out of bad news and help your reader accept the decision and move on.

STEP 3: COMPLETING A NEGATIVE MESSAGE The need for careful attention to detail continues as you complete your message. Revise your content to ensure that everything is clear, complete, and concise— bearing in mind that even small flaws are magnified as readers react to your negative news. Produce clean, professional documents, and proofread carefully to eliminate mistakes. Finally, be especially sure that your negative messages are delivered promptly and successfully. Delaying when you need to convey negative news can be a serious breach of etiquette.

Using the Direct Approach for Negative Messages As you apply the three-step writing process to develop negative messages, keep three points in mind. First, before you organize the main points of a message, it is vital to choose a direct or an indirect approach. Second, before actually composing your message, be sensitive to variations across cultures or between internal and external audiences. And third, to fulfill the spirit of audience focus, ensure that you maintain high ethical standards. A negative message using the direct approach opens with the bad news, proceeds to the reasons for the situation or the decision, and ends with a positive statement aimed at maintaining a good relationship with the audience. Depending on the circumstances, the message may also offer alternatives or a plan of action to fix the situation under discussion. Stating bad news at the beginning can have two advantages: (1) it makes a shorter message possible, and (2) it allows the audience to reach the main idea of the message in less time.

2

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Explain how to use the direct approach effectively when conveying negative news.

Use the direct approach when your negative answer or information will have minimal personal impact.

OPENING WITH A CLEAR STATEMENT OF THE BAD NEWS Whether it’s something relatively minor, such as telling a supplier that you’re planning to reduce the size of your orders in the future, or something major, such as telling employees that revenues dropped the previous quarter, come right out and say it. However, if the news is likely to be devastating, maintain

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a calm, professional tone that keeps the focus on the news and not on individual failures or other possible factors. Also, if necessary, remind the reader why you’re writing. Reminds the reader that your company has a standing order and announces the change immediately Reminds the reader that he or she applied for life insurance with your firm and announces your decision Eases into the bad news with a personal acknowledgment to the staff, even though it delivers the news directly and immediately

Please modify our standing order for the FL-205 shipping cases from 3000 per month to 2500 per month. Transnation Life is unable to grant your application for SafetyNet term life insurance. In spite of everyone’s best efforts to close more sales this past quarter, revenue fell 14 percent compared to the third quarter last year.

Notice how the third example still manages to ease into the bad news, even though it delivers the news directly and quickly. In all three instances, the recipient gets the news immediately, without reading the reasons why the news is bad.

PROVIDING REASONS AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION In most cases, you’ll follow the direct opening with an explanation of why the news is negative:

Reassures the reader that the product in question is still satisfactory but is no longer needed in the same quantity

Please modify our standing order for the FL-205 shipping cases from 3000 per month to 2500 per month. The FL-205 continues to meet our needs for medical packaging, but our sales of that product line have levelled off.

Offers a general explanation as the reason the application was denied and discourages further communication on the matter

Transnation Life is unable to grant your application for SafetyNet te